Surfer’s ear is a condition in which exposure to cold water or wind in the ear canal stimulates new bone growth in the canal, narrowing it over time. Mild cases generally require no treatment, but moderate to severe exostoses may cause frequent ear infection due to trapping of water and debris.
Exostoses can be prevented by wearing water tight ear plugs during exposure to cold water and/or a wetsuit hood. Those who swim or surf in colder waters are more at risk than those in warmer climates. Custom ear plugs for swimmers are offered in our office, as well as off the shelf options.
If you suspect you have exostoses, an evaluation by an ear, nose and throat doctor can help determine if you need treatment. Surgical treatment is performed as an outpatient under general anesthesia. The severity of the narrowing usually determines the approach used for surgery, but some can be removed through the ear canal, which allows for a shorter recovery time.