Surfer’s Ear/Exostosis

Contact Us To Get Help From an Ear Doctor Los Angeles

With great white sharks, rugged coral reefs, and wild waves, anyone that has been on the water for prolonged time can face a lot of dangers. However, if you are one of the adventurous few who enjoy riding waves, there is another danger you might not have thought of: surfer’s ear (also known as exostosis).

What is Surfer’s Ear?

This is a condition involving abnormal bone formation in the ear canal. After many years of swimming or surfing, this blockage can develop to block the ear canal and cause hearing problems. Even though you may feel like you’re going deaf, an ENT for ear problems in Los Angeles will diagnose this as the easily treatable surfer’s ear.

Many swimmers and surfers suffer from exostosis due to spending too much time in the water. The cold, windy water associated with these activities is believed to increase the surfer’s ear risk. Also, it has been perceived that those who surf in cold water are at a higher risk of getting the infection than warm water surfers.

Men have a high likelihood of getting affected, even though that is speculated because a higher percentage of men participate in sports events that incline people to develop the disease.

Causes of Surfer’s Ear

The main cause of exostosis is wet and cold weather. People need long-term exposure to notice symptoms. The most affected individuals are between 30 and 40 years old and have a long history of outdoor activities in cold water.

It’s easier to take steps to avoid it than to treat it. Many of the methods of prevention are overlooked by surfers and swimmers, but many are low-cost.


Find an earplug that works for you. Currently, you can purchase the ones permit sound in while keeping the water away. Foam and silicone are among the most popular types of earplugs.  You can also get earplugs specifically made for waterwear from brands like Speedo. Or you may purchase the paste at any drugstore and apply it across the ear canal. It does not matter the type you use, as long as you are wearing protection for your ears.

Ear drops

Put ear drops to assist in drying up the water trapped in your ear canal. However, watch out for drops with high alcohol concentration. Such drops will dry the water but can as well dry out the skin and lead to infection.

Blow Dryer

After a surf session, switch the blow dryer on minimal heat and slide it backward and forward over your ear to vaporize the water. Nowadays, you can even purchase portable electric dryers specially designed for use in the ears.


On cold days, wearing a hoodie traps heat around your head and prevents your head from getting cold. This can help prevent years of earache or discomfort.

Symptoms and diagnosis

In the initial stages, the ear canal will fill with debris, which may be accompanied by an ear infection. As the blockage increases, other symptoms might also appear. They include:

  • Weakened hearing in the affected ear (as much as 90%)
  • Increased occurrence of ear infections
  • Water retention in the ear canal

While compulsions might affect both ears, one ear is likely to be much affected than the other. This may often be related to the cold environments that the person is in, for instance, winds emanating from a certain bearing for surfers.


In such a narrow space like the ear canal, dirt and water might get stuck in it and cause a surfer’s ear. Treating the infection is much more challenging for persons without open ear canals. Treating the infection will require several visits to head and neck specialists (otolaryngologist) to remove the debris and treat them with antibiotics.

Once more than 90% of your ear canal becomes blocked, noteworthy hearing loss may occur, which could only be alleviated by removing the debris.


The best remedy is prevention, as it can easily be helped with a few small lifestyle changes. However, for those who we can’t save, the surgical treatment option is available.

Exostosis surgery has gone through some progress in late years, which is beneficial as it makes it less invasive. Depending the severity of the blockage, there are three available surgery categories.

  • Incision Behind the Ear – However, some head and neck doctors make an incision at the back of the ear, peeling your skin forward, and then put a chisel or drill into the now visible ear canal. They can use the chisel to remove the bony growths.
  • Chisel or Drill In-Ear Canal – This is perhaps the most standard approach among ear doctors. In some circumstances, the process can be done by local anesthesia rather than general anesthesia. Hearing doctors may prefer chisels to drill due to the proximity to the eardrum.
  • Laser – The LA ear doctor has begun using laser surgery to remove bone tumors; however, it is not that common compared to other techniques. On the other hand, persons’ who receive laser therapy benefit from less recovery time.

In the course of your recovery period, ensure that no water enters your ear canal. This means you must wear earplugs when in the water (for instance, in the bath or shower) and that you cannot surf or swim under any circumstances. If you fail to wear the earplugs after your healing from ear canals, it might re-occur within several years.

This condition is preventable and curable at the same time. In case you have a question regarding exostosis, do not hesitate to contact an ENT doctor in Los Angeles. If you have begun to experience hearing loss, you may have developed a surfer’s ear, but luckily, it’s treatable with the help of a talented ear doctor like Westside Head & Neck.

How the Ear Works

The ear has three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear & the inner ear.

The outer ear, including the external auditory canal, (the part you can see) opens into the ear canal. The eardrum (tympanic membrane) separates the ear canal from the middle ear. The middle ear contains three small bones which help amplify and transfer sound to the inner ear. These three bones, or ossicles, are called the malleus (or hammer), the incus (or anvil), and the stapes (or stirrup). The inner ear contains the cochlea which changes sound into neurological signals and the auditory (hearing) nerve, which takes sound to the brain.Ear Anatomy

Surfer’s Ear/ExostosisAny source of sound sends vibrations or sound waves into the air. These funnel through the ear opening, down the external ear canal, and strike your eardrum, causing it to vibrate. The vibrations are passed to the three small bones of the middle ear, which transmit them to the cochlea. The cochlea contains tubes filled with fluid. Inside one of the tubes, tiny hair cells pick up the vibrations and convert them into nerve impulses. These impulses are delivered to the brain via the hearing nerve. The brain interprets the impulses as sound (music, voice, a car horn, etc.).

Hearing & Ear Problems

  • Balance Disorder
  • Central Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Cholesteatoma
  • Chronic Ear Infections
  • Chronic Middle Ear Fluid
  • Dizziness: Lightheadedness & Vertigo
  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
  • Meniere’s Disease/ Endolymphatic hydrops
  • Earaches & Otitis Media
  • Ear wax/ Cerumen/ Glue Ear
  • Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
  • Exostosis/ Surfer’s ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Mastoiditis
  • Otosclerosis
  • Perforated Eardrum
  • Tinnitus
  • Vestibular neuritis/ Labyrinthitis


  • Cerumen (ear wax) removal
  • Otoplasty Ear Correction Plastic Surgery
  • Mastoidectomy
  • Myringotomy with (Ventilating) Tubes
  • Stapedectomy
  • Tinnitus Evaluation and Retraining Therapy
  • Tympanomastoidectomy
  • Tympanoplasty
  • Vestibular Rehabilitation

Outer Ear Infections
Outer ear infections can cause itching in the ear canal, pain and swelling of the ear canal, discharge from the ear, and crusting around the ear canal. Your physician will carefully clean and dry your ear. If your ear is very swollen, the physician may insert a wick soaked with an antibiotic into the ear to get the medicine into the infected area. You may need to put drops in your ear several times a day to keep the wick moist. Oral antibiotics may also be indicated if you have a severe infection, or your physician may suggest a cream or ointment medicine for some types of infection.

Middle Ear Infections
A middle ear infection is an infection of the air-filled space in the ear behind the eardrum. Ear infections usually begin with a viral infection of the nose and throat. Ear infections may also occur when you have allergies. Symptoms of a middle ear infection include earache, hearing loss, feeling of blockage in the ear, fever, and dizziness. The physician will check for fluid behind the eardrum, and a hearing test may also be recommended if you are experiencing hearing loss. Antibiotic medicine is a common treatment for ear infections. However, recent studies have shown that the symptoms of ear infections often go away in a couple of days without antibiotics. Your provider may recommend a decongestant (tablets or a nasal spray) to help clear the eustachian tube.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
Benign Proxysmal Positional Vertigo is one of the most common causes of vertigo in adults. It presents with the illusion of movement, which occurs within a few seconds of a change in head positioning. Most commonly a short sensation of spinning is experienced after lying down in bed, arising in the morning, or rolling over in bed at night, but may also occur when one looks up to a high shelf, or down under furniture. Typically, the symptoms last seconds to minutes or so before resolving. BPPV is due to microscopic crystals, or otoconia, floating around in one of the compartments of the inner ear. The movement of these particles stimulate the sensory endings of the vestibular (balance) nerve, producing vertigo.

The good news is that BPPV responds well to physical therapy maneuvers. Medications rarely help. A trained physician or vestibular therapist can perform therapy which can rapidly eliminate the symptoms of dizziness. These maneuvers are designed to relocate the crystals to a part of the inner ear where they will not produce any symptoms. Treatments for BPPV can usually be performed in one or two sessions with very high success rates. This office frequently diagnosis and properly treats this disorder.

Meniere’s Disease
Meniere’s Disease is a problem in the inner ear. It can cause severe dizziness (vertigo) and hearing loss. It usually affects just one ear, but it can happen in both ears. There can be a significant hearing loss, but complete deafness is rare. The symptoms can be mild or severe. Although the dizziness can be very disabling, it can usually be controlled.

Excessive amounts of earwax, or cerumen, can block the ear canal and cause temporary hearing impairment. Earwax should be removed only by a professional. Q-tips, ear candeling, or other methods of home earwax removal are not recommended. Please consult your physician if you suspect earwax impaction.

Labyrinthitis & Vestibular Neuritis
Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the inner ear. Vestibular neuritis is an inflammation of the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain. In vestibular neuritis, a virus similar to the herpes virus causes an infection. This infection causes swelling and inflammation of the vestibular nerves or the labyrinth. Sometimes bacteria from a middle ear infection cause labyrinthitis. Symptoms of vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis include dizziness or vertigo, trouble maintaining balance, and nausea. Diagnosis may include a hearing evaluation, balance testing, an MRI scan, and possible blood testing.

Otosclerosis is the abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear which can cause conductive hearing loss, or the prevention of the normal transmission of sound. It is most common for otosclerosis to affect one of the bones in the middle ear called the stapes. Other symptoms of otoscerlosis may include ringing in the ears and dizziness. Otosclerosis can be diagnosed by your ENT physician, and will include a hearing evaluation by an audiologist. Treatment may consist of a surgery called a stapedectomy, where a prosthetic device replaces the abnormal bone growth.

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is not normal, and can be a symptom of other disorders. Some of the causes of tinnitus are hearing loss, noise exposure, ear infections, sinus infections, Meniere’s disease, ear or head injury, otosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, certain medications, anxiety or stress, heavy smoking, and thyroid disorders. Tinnitus can be described as ringing, buzzing, crickets, escaping air, and many other types of sound. Your physician will ask about your symptoms and may order a hearing test, scans, or blood work to determine the possible cause. Treatment options may include a hearing aid or masking device, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), and perhaps certain medication.

Hearing Loss
Types of hearing loss: Hearing loss is categorized by what part of the auditory system is damaged. These fall into three categories: Conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, or mixed hearing loss.

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