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Surfer’s Ear – A Potential Side Effect of Surfing

by Cristina Costea

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What could be better than being out there in the ocean on your board, catching a perfect wave, and surfing until you’re blissfully tired? Any surfer will tell you that there aren’t many feelings in the world that can compare to that. 

Unfortunately, surfing isn’t without dangers! Aside from stinging jellyfish, poisonous fish and the occasional sharks, there is another danger that lurks in the water – one that can cause a relatively painful and dangerous condition called surfer’s ear. We are here to explain the condition, its causes, potential treatment, and how to avoid surfer’s ear.


What is It?


Surfer’s ear is a condition that causes abnormal bone growth in the ear canal. It should not be confused with swimmer’s ear, which is a different ear condition. Surfer’s ear is also called exostosis, which comes from Greek and means new bone.

The ear canal is comprised of many small bones and when abnormal growth happens, that canal becomes narrower, which can lead to pain, infection, tinnitus (constant ringing in the ear), and even loss of hearing. The good news is that many surfers who have surfer’s ear are symptom-free and they have a good chance of remaining symptom-free is they limit their exposure to what causes the condition.


What Causes It?


So, what causes surfer’s ear? Believe it or not, it is cold water in your ear and exposure to cold winds that causes the abnormal bone growth inside the ear canal. Scientists don’t know exactly why this happens, but apparently, cold water or wind irritate the ear canal and the bones respond by growing. The more exposure to cold water, the more they grow, until the ear canal can close up completely, leading to hearing loss and infection.

If you know that you’ve been surfing in cold waters, and you feel ear pain, or your ear or ears get infected (due to water or debris getting stuck in there without being able to get out), then you should make an appointment with your doctor and get your diagnosis.




Surfer’s Ear Treatment


Unfortunately, the only treatment for surfer’s ear is surgery to remove the bone growth. There is no other way to get rid of the extra bone inside the ear canal. As mentioned above, there are many surfers out there that experience no symptoms, and for them, surgery could be skipped. Naturally, only your physician can accurately tell you if surgery is the way to go. But know that if you’ve been diagnosed with surfer’s ear, you will need to avoid surfing in cold waters or wear ear plugs.


How to Prevent Surfer’s Ear


The only way to ever successfully prevent surfer’s ear is to either avoid surfing in cold waters or to wear ear plugs. Since avoiding to surf in cold waters isn’t an option for so many surfers out there, the best way to do it is to wear ear plugs. So many surfers are painfully unaware of surfer’s ear, or they just don’t care, and forego ear plugs.

Our advice to all surfers out there is to Make ear plugs great again! They’re not unfashionable, they’re not uncool! On the contrary, they’re so cool they can save you from going deaf! Go ahead, get yourself a pair of surfing ear plugs and tackle whatever water you want!


 Check out our extensive offer of surf camps and vacations in Europe! Make sure you wear ear plugs if you plan of surfing in the cold waters of the UK! 

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