What’s Surfer’s Ear?
Surfer’s Ear (Auditory Exostosis in doctor-speak) is a condition that causes abnormal bone growth in your ear canal. An average ear canal is 0.7mm in diameter, with a volume of just under a millilitre. If you’re unlucky enough to get Surfer’s Ear, your ear canal becomes narrower and smaller, eventually impeding your hearing and balance, and increases your risk of infection.
How do you get Surfer’s Ear?
Chasing the best waves is part and parcel of surfing, and your pursuit can take you to some bitterly cold conditions. Even in warmer surf, spend enough time in the water and your ears are going feel the chill. Overexposure to wet and cold promotes blood flow around your ear bones, making them swell and eventually grow bony lumps that impede your ear canal. As Exostosis lumps increase in size, they block your ears and trap water, as well as affecting your balance and hearing. Although refreshing, sea water contains lots of dirt and bacteria that will eventually cause infection – a common problem for sufferers of Surfer’s Ear.
What does Surfer’s Ear feel like?
Like with most ear conditions, the first sign of Surfer’s Ear you’ll notice your hearing won’t be quite as good it was, particularly in the days following your surf session. Because Surfer’s Ear decreases the space in your ear canal, if you’ve got it, it’ll become difficult to clear your ears of water after your surf, or even post-shower. In extreme cases, Surfer’s Ear causes hearing issues, imbalance, pain and tinnitus-like ringing that will stop you surfing. If you’ve got Surfer’s Ear, you’ll be more susceptible to infections too, so if you’re in doubt, go and see to your doctor.
Who does Surfer’s Ear effect?
Well, pretty much everyone that spends a decent amount of time in the surf. A recent study undertaken by the Water Base Research Unit on the world’s best pro surfers concluded that 100% of those tested showed some sign of auditory exostosis. Since wetsuits have gone next-level over the past decade, allowing us to spend more time in the conditions in which Surfer’s Ear comes to the fore, more surfers are at risk. Age comes into play too – multiple studies prove that along with the natural diminishment of your ears towards your late 30’s and through your 40’s, Surfer’s Ear starts to become more likely and comes with greater implications.
How to stop Surfer’s Ear?
Well, stop the problem at its source of course – wear some surf ear plugs. Luckily enough, Surf Ears have developed some immensely clever products to stop Exostosis, without impeding your ability to enjoy long days in the swell. Their 2.0 Ear Plugs and Junior Ear Plugs block out the cold wind and water that causes Surfer’s Ear growth, whilst still allowing you to hear when someone yells “shark”. Even more impressively, Surf Ears products don’t affect your balance – that’s pretty important for surfing. Surf Ears don’t stand alone though, check out earplugs from SexWax, EQ Seals, G Plugs, and Seki that give you excellent protection against Surfer’s Ear too.
How to cure Surfer’s Ear
If Surfer’s Ear starts to affect your day-to-day life or stop you surfing, there are simple (albeit pricey if you don’t have a NHS) procedures that can remove the canal-blocking lumps, carried-out under a general anaesthetic. It’s super-important after these simple surgeries that your ears aren’t re-exposed to the conditions that caused the problem in the first place.
Should I be wearing earplugs when surfing?
That’s totally up to you, but Surfer’s Ear is a gnarly thing to have to deal with. For those that surf on the regular, there are real benefits to your long-term ability to hear, balance, and warding-off infection brought by wearing ear plugs. Hardcore old-schoolers will claim they aren’t cool enough for the surf scene, but let’s face it, if they’re going to keep you surfing for longer, does that even matter? Surfer’s Ear is common but preventable, so for us ear plugs are a must!