Common Ear Problems For Surfers
Surfers Ear vs Swimmers Ear
After growing up hearing (just barely and pun intended) about things like surfers ear, ear aches, ear infections or swimmers ear...it wasn't until I first had ear problems that I decided to delve a little deeper in order to figure out what was going on for me.
Surfers Ear Key Points:
- it is an extra bone growth (exostosis) in the ear canal usually caused by the repeated exposure to cold water and/or wind.
- This bone growth causes ear canal to be narrowed which means you are more likely to get an ear infection (see swimmers ear blog post) as water is trapped more easily
- Water temperature around 20 °C stimulates bone growth, but when you add wind chill this means that you can be at risk in warmer waters, provided it is windy...
- also common in water sports such as windsurfing, kayaking, open water swimming, diving, sailing, and kitesurfing (which a lot of surfers also do!)
- Time taken for surfers ear to develop changes from person to person and depends on how cold and how exposed you are and how often you expose yourself, in other words it depends...
- It is very common! Lots of people have it, just not badly and not as noticeable as others
-Most people notice it when they travel from colder climates to warmer places (warm water is often more polluted and has more bacteria) and get ear infections!
- None in early stages
- As develops you may notice water getting stuck in ear more often after a surf or an increase in ear infections
- If it is bad it can cause hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing sounds in the ear)
- If you travel from a cold water home to a warm water holiday and get an ear infection it can be a good indicator!
- Surgery... when the bone growths cause symptoms that can no longer be tolerated e.g. repeated water trapping, infections or trapping of debris in the ear canal.
- Surgeon drills out the bone growth, involves cutting and stitching ear and results in several weeks out of the water OR some surgeons have a chiseling technique which is doesn't require ear to be cut so recovery time is shorter!
- Either way this sucks!!!
- Wear ear plugs, check out https://surfears.com/
- Wear a hoodie or hat with ear flaps
- Don't surf in the cold water as much
- If you are on a budget or already on a surf trip you could try Blu-Tack, I have used several times successfully!
- exposure to cold water and wind, especially the combination of the two as the wind creates a chill factor when your ears are wet
- the extra bone growth is thought to be the body’s defence mechanism to protect the ear drum.
-The problem is that the growth doesn’t go away afterwards, it continues to grow.
-The bone growth will increase with lower temperature and more frequent exposure.
Difference to Swimmers Ear:
- Swimmers Ear is an INFECTION not bone growth
- Getting Surfers ear (bone growth) causes the ear canal (tube to inner ear) to become narrower, so water is more likely to get trapped
- If water gets trapped repeatedly it causes a nice moist and warm environment to form and bacteria thrive here
- this causes infection and if this occurs repeatedly it becomes known as "Swimmers Ear"
To find out more information on ear aches and Swimmers ache see our blog post here!
Cheers and as always stay safe
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