North Hills ENT

Surfer's Ear

Surfer’s ear is not the same swimmer’s ear, but many people confuse the two conditions. Surfer’s ear is the result of an abnormal bone growth in the ear canal. What happens is the abnormal bone growth is made up of several bony growths called exostoses. Eventually surfer’s ear can cause partial or a complete blockage of the ear canal.

Symptoms and Signs

Early exostoses, associated with surfer’s ear, often do not result in any symptoms. As the bony growths expand, however, they fill the external ear canal and trap water. This leads to external otitis (an ear infection) and alters the shape of the ear canal. Some people have conductive hearing loss and ear pain with this condition. Other symptoms that could occur include dizziness, ear pressure, ringing in the ears, and ear drainage.

Cause and Concerns

The ear canal is narrow, and foreign objects and water can easily become lodged there. This causes pain and can lead to an infection. The main cause of surfer's ear is exposure to wind and cold water for long periods of time. There are two types of surfers: cold-water surfers and warm water surfers with cold-water surfers being seven times more likely to develop surfer’s ear.

Solutions and Options

If surfer’s ear is left untreated, it may cause significant hearing damage. Surfer’s ear and swimmer’s ear can be affected by the same type of infection which results from a narrow ear canal that allows water or foreign object to become trapped. The only way to remove the water or foreign objects is for a specialist to completely clean the ear canal. It may take several visits to an ear specialist for the ear canal to restore to its original state. In addition to cleaning the ear canal, antibiotics may be necessary. Sometimes more than one course of antibiotics is needed. Surgery may also be necessary depending on the condition. 

Summary

The best way to keep surfer’s ear under control is with preventative measures. For prevention, use earplugs and a special surfer hat or headband. The best advice is to use all three! If you think you may have surfer’s ear, call today to schedule an appointment with one of our caring ear specialists.

817-595-3700