surfer's ear

Researchers have found that one in every 17 surfers has had at least one operation for surfer’s ear.


Surfer’s ear is a very common ear disorder in those who regularly spend time in the sea. The water and wind cool down the outer parts of the ear. The body’s unfortunate response is to grow bony outgrowths around the entrance to the ear canal. This slowly closes up the opening and causes deafness as well as frequent ear infections.

Very little research has been performed into this condition. The medical name for it is cranial exostosis. It can affect surfers in any climate and any season. If the condition starts to cause problems then an operation is the only way to reverse this. A small chisel or drill is usually used to remove the extra bone. Unfortunately this does not stop the problem coming back if the surfer does not protect themselves with ear plugs.

ZenPlugs carried out a survey of 206 surfers, mostly based in Cornwall, UK. One out of every 17 surfers of this group had had an operation for surfer’s ear at some point. On average they had been surfing for 30 years, surfing eight times per month and spent approximately two hours in the water per session. This gives a total time in the water of 5760 hours on average for those affected by the condition. The average number of hours for the whole group was 2880. This is the first time that research has shown that spending more time in the water increases the risk of developing the condition.

Several of the surfers in the group had had the operation more than once. Simply wearing ear plugs is enough to keep wind and water from the canal and prevent the condition.




Written By: Dr Tobias Bateson





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