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SURFER'S EAR

What is
Surfer’s Ear?

Surfer’s ear, also known as exostosis, is an abnormal growth of bone inside the ear canal. In its advanced stages, the exostoses can severely narrow the ear canal and cause trapping of water and wax, which can lead to infections and hearing loss.

How is it caused?

 

Surfer’s ears take years to form, usually after being exposed to cold water or air. It is common in swimmers and surfers who dip their ears in cold water, but it can also occur in patients who have a long history of ear exposure in other cold, windy, and wet conditions such as sailing, skiing, and windsurfing. Sometimes the exostosis can even happen randomly without a known reason.

The ear canal is made of 1/3 cartilage and 2/3 bone. The area affected by Surfer’s ear is the bony canal. Over the course of years, the bone is slowly remodeled and forms lumps of new bony growth which narrow the ear canal.

Is there medicine that can be used to treat Surfer’s ear?

As of now the only method of getting rid of exostoses is by surgery, which physically removes these lumps and restores the original shape of the ear canal.

If your exostoses are in the early stage, you could prevent them from getting larger by avoiding further exposure to cold water and wind.

What are possible complications of the surgery?

The chances of complications with exostosis surgery are very rare. Like any surgery, the most common risk is infection. Extra care is taken to perform the surgery in a sterile environment, and antibiotics are given both before and after the procedure to help prevent any infection.

Sometimes the exostosis can be very close to the eardrum, and extra care must be taken to avoid any injury to the eardrum which can lead to hearing loss.

How is the surgery done?

There are various methods to remove the exostoses. Most of the techniques involve exposing the ear canal directly under an operating microscope. A small incision is made over the lump of bone and the skin is rotated away to expose the underlying bone. Then, either a drill or a small chisel is used to carefully remove the bony lumps in the canal. Once the bone is removed, the skin is rotated back over the canal and packing is placed to hold the skin together inside the ear canal. There are no incisions made anywhere except inside the ear canal. There surgery does not require sutures.

01

Small incision behind the ear

Small incision behind the ear

The incision is usually made behind the ear in the hairline

02

Remove the bony lump

Remove the bony lump

An operating microscope is used and great care is taken to remove the bony lump with a high-speed drill (like a dentist’s drill), whilst preserving the skin of the ear canal

03

The ear canal is widened

The ear canal is widened

The surgeon widens the ear canal

04

Dressings are placed

Dressings are placed

At the conclusion of the procedure, dressings are placed in the ear canal The operation usually takes 2 to 3 hours

What can happen if I avoid surgery?

Having exostoses is not a life-threatening problem, but it can lead to many issues with quality of life. Since wax can get easily trapped behind the bony lumps, it can lead to hearing loss and may require frequent cleanings by your doctor. The exostoses can also make you more prone to ear infections, which could be harder to treat successfully as the exostoses become larger. With time, the exostoses can become large enough to cause hearing loss since sound can not reach the ear drum due to blockage of the ear canal.

Can I go back to swimming/surfing after the surgery?

I recommend waiting about 2 to 4 weeks before getting back in the water after surgery, but it all depends on how good the healing appears on your post-operative visit.

 

Is there a possibility that the exostoses can return after the surgery?

It’s good to keep in mind that the exostoses could recur if the ears are re-exposed to cold temperatures, but this usually happens over several years of frequent exposure. It’s very rare for the exostoses to recur otherwise.

What is the recovery period after the surgery?

The surgery takes place in an outpatient setting and usually takes about an hour to perform. After the surgery, the patient is discharged home with pain medications and antibiotics. There is minimal pain associated with the surgery, and usually the patients take little or no pain medications for about 1-2 days after the surgery. The patient can usually start performing light activities around the house and in the office the day after the surgery. The ear packing is removed about 1-2 weeks after the surgery, and depending on the exam, the patient can return to swimming or surfing about 2-4 weeks after the surgery.

Getting the ear wet can make it harder for the skin in the ear canal to heal. Keeping the ear canal dry until it is fully healed will get the best result for you. This usually takes 4 weeks but can take up to 8 weeks.

Still have questions regarding the condition?

While the information in this website may be helpful, it will never fully relate ear treatment to you. If you are facing any ear problem, please call our office and one of our representatives will talk to you.

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TESTIMONIALS

What are patient say about us

Thanks to the expert care and skillful ear surgery I received, my life has been transformed. I can hear clearly again, and I’m forever grateful for the life-changing experience provided by the talented team

ANDREW ,

“You’ve changed the way I hear and feel and will forever be so grateful.”

“Since the very first time of seeing Dr. Nazarian, I feel that I have been in the best of care- and from the first day and through the my surgery, I have felt that Dr. Nazarian is a very compassionate and caring doctor- more than I have ever seen. I feel very fortunate to have been referred to Dr. Nazarian. He is the best!”

JOSEPH ,

“Dr. Nazarian, who gave me back the wonderful gift of hearing!”

“Since the very first time of seeing Dr. Nazarian, I feel that I have been in the best of care- and from the first day and through the my surgery, I have felt that Dr. Nazarian is a very compassionate and caring doctor- more than I have ever seen. I feel very fortunate to have been referred to Dr. Nazarian. He is the best!”

NATALIA ,

“He’s the greatest surgeon and physician I have ever had the pleasure of being cared for.

“Since the very first time of seeing Dr. Nazarian, I feel that I have been in the best of care- and from the first day and through the my surgery, I have felt that Dr. Nazarian is a very compassionate and caring doctor- more than I have ever seen. I feel very fortunate to have been referred to Dr. Nazarian. He is the best!”

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