Surfer’s Ear and Hearing Loss: What You Need to Know

Surfer’s ear, also known as exostosis, is a condition that affects the ear canal and is typically caused by repeated exposure to cold water and wind. The condition causes abnormal bone growth in the ear canal, which can narrow or even completely block the ear canal. This can lead to symptoms such as ear infections, difficulty hearing, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

While surfer’s ear can cause symptoms such as ear infections and difficulty hearing, it is typically not associated with significant hearing loss. This is because bone growth tends to affect the outer part of the ear canal rather than the inner ear, which is responsible for hearing. However, in severe cases where the ear canal is almost completely blocked, some degree of hearing loss may occur.

The symptoms of surfer’s ear can vary depending on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, there may be no symptoms at all. In more severe cases, symptoms can include:


  • Ear infections
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Increased ear wax production
  • Water trapped in the ear

Treatment for surfer’s ear typically involves removing the bone growth in the ear canal. This can be done using a surgical procedure called canalplasty or by using a small drill to remove the excess bone. In some cases, a combination of both procedures may be used.

Prevention is key when it comes to surfer’s ear. Wearing earplugs or a hood while surfing or participating in other water sports can help to protect the ear canal from cold water and wind exposure. It’s also important to dry the ears thoroughly to get all the water out of the ears after water exposure and to avoid inserting objects such as cotton swabs into the ear canal, which can irritate the skin and lead to further complications.