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Surfers Ear Symptoms – Prevention And Management

What is a surfer’s ear? before we discuss exclusively on surfer’s ears. It is important to know what the condition that presents these symptoms really is. To define in detail the meaning of a surfer’s ear, let us play around with the little anatomy of the auditory canal.

The length of the auditory canal is a little bit 2.5cm and a diameter of approximately 0.6cm.

The shape of the ear canal is described as a form of lazy S, the media part of the ear canal is a circular opening in the skull bone while the distal part is made up of cartilage.

The importance of this simple anatomy in this write-up is the long-term changes that occur in the canal diameter when an individual experiences long-term exposure to high-intensity wind in a cold environment.

The ear bone begins to grow purposely to reduce the diameter of the canal in order to reduce the intensity of the wind such an individual is exposed to, this condition is known as surfer’s ear.

About Exostosis Or Surfers’ Ears

Do you often practice surfing or water sports? If your answer is yes, Keep an eye out for exostosis! 

Despite being uncommon, the problem deserves special attention in order to avoid possible complications that could affect hearing.

Now let’s examine what exostosis is, what are the main causes, symptoms, and treatment, as well as preventive measures to avoid the problem.

About Exostosis Or Surfers' Ears

What is exostosis? Also known as surfer’s ear

Exostosis is characterized by excessive growth of the bony portion of the ear canal. As a result, the external auditory canal, whose function is to establish communication between the external environment and the middle ear, may close. Without correct communication, the patient’s hearing ability may gradually decrease as bone growth increases.

What is the cause?

Although the causes are not fully known, it is known that prolonged exposure to cold water and wind is the main cause of the development of the problem.

This is because our body tries as much as possible to prevent cold water and wind from reaching or causing an impact on the tympanic membrane- a cylindrical channel that conducts sound waves. 

To this end, our body reacts by narrowing the ear canal through bone growth.

However, it is worth highlighting that exostosis does not develop easily. It takes years of excessive exposure to these conditions for abnormal growth in the bones of the ear canal.

What are the symptoms?

in most initial cases, exostosis is asymptomatic. The first symptoms only begin to appear when the bone in the ear canal reaches a significant size. in these cases, symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Water retention in the ear
  • Occlusion of the ear orifice due to excess wax
  • Increase in the frequency of external otitis
  • Pus coming out of the ear
  • Gradual hearing loss

The problem does not always affect the two ears with the same intensity. It is common for the symptoms to be accentuated in one ear and appear less intense in the other ear.

The explanation is related to the wind direction where the patient usually practices surfing and other water sports.

The ear that catches the most wind will always be the most affected.

How to treat the problem?

When diagnosed in the early stages, exostosis can be treated with antibiotic drops and corticosteroids to alleviate symptoms, in addition to recommending the use of earplugs during water activities.

Most cases, however, require surgical treatment to correct the problem. 

The procedure is carried out through a small incision in the back of the ear, where the surgeon will remove excess bone tissue with the help of a surgical drill, preserving the skin that will line the ear canal.

How to prevent it?

Preventing exostosis can be carried out, basically, in two ways. They are:

Avoid surfing and water sports when the water is very cold or in regions where the water is constantly cold

Use earplugs to protect your ear canal whenever you enter the water.

Furthermore, it is important that surfers and water sports enthusiasts undergo regular follow-ups with an otorhinolaryngologist to avoid further hearing complications.

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