Prevent Surfer's Ear

October 22, 2018

Fall has officially arrived!  Many areas of the United States might be breaking out the heavy sweaters and preparing for recreational activities to change from water sports and hiking to snowboarding and skiing. But beach communities such as Santa Cruz, CA, can enjoy year-round recreational surfing and swimming – cold water and cold wind won’t deter exuberant fans from the breaking waves!   

According to a guide published on, there can be a health cost to those surfers who don’t protect their ears. The condition of external auditory exostosis (EAE) or “surfer’s ear” is a common result of repeated exposure to the cold water and wind. The body fights back to protect the ear canal and develops extra bone growth under the lining of the ear canal which can eventually close off the ear canal altogether. If that happens, chronic ear infections, equilibrium issues and hearing loss might result.  The surfer might experience symptoms like increased earwax, difficulty hearing speech clearly, the sensation of water sloshing around in the ear, along with “plugged” ears which do not clear up for hours or ear pain from recurring infections.

Prevention is key because once the bony growths cause problems, surgery might be the only effective help. The good news for prevention is ear plugs – the best would be custom fitted earplugs to ensure the correct fit and seal as well as comfort.  Other preventive steps would be to wear a neoprene hood, dry your ears out after surfing, and keeping your ears warm once out of the water (especially on a cold windy day.)  Enjoy the perks of California recreation, but be sure to properly protect your ears – come see us soon!

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