Surfer’s Ear | A Growing Problem

Surfer’s ear is a serious and growing problem for surfers and other water athletes. However, it is still quite unknown and often recognized as a problem when it’s already too late. Sometimes surfer’s ear is mistaken for a common ear infection. Both are related but the two are very different. So what is surfer’s ear, and how can you protect yourself from it?


Surfer’s Ear

Basically surfer’s ear is an internal growth of bone within the ear canal caused by exposure to cold water (often in combination with wind). When the water temperature reaches below 20 degrees Celsius, or 68 degrees Fahrenheit, you will be six times more likely to develop surfer’s ear. Because the bone grows slowly, you won’t notice this until you’re older. So the more important to start protecting your ears as soon as possible.


The Symptoms

Because your ears have narrowed you risk infections every time you get your ears wet. Everybody who has ever had an ear infection can tell you how annoying and painful it can be plus keeping you out of the water for weeks at a time. Other symptoms may be a (permanent) loss of hearing, constant pain, and a loss of balance.


If you actually have been diagnosed there is a way to treat your condition but it requires an operation. And to be honest it’s not without some risks. The operation involves drilling and/or chiseling! You will be but to sleep. Some patients will have post operative tinnitus (hearing a sound which isn’t there) or nerve hearing loss. Recovery will keep you out of the water for 6 to 8 weeks and occasionally up to a couple of months.


If needed it’s always recommended to surf with a cap or a hoodie. This already protects your ears against some or most of the cold. Additionally or alternatively you could opt to wear ear plugs. These really are the best prevention against surfer’s ear, other than not surfing at all. You might feel the urge to resist against wearing ear plugs but you only have one set of ears and you can ruin your surfing for the rest of your life due to constant pain and infections. Today’s ear plugs are vented, so you still have your balance and are able to hear your surroundings.


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