The Surfing Injury You Rarely Hear About: Surfer’s Ear


While each and every surfer has spun a tale or two about surf injuries—a board to the back of the head, a hand sliced on a fin, a dislocated joint soon after a specifically violent closeout—these injuries are basically rather uncommon.

There is a surf malady a great deal far more prevalent, far much less talked about, and potentially significantly far more unsafe: exostosis (aka surfer’s ear). It’s a difficulty that impacts close to one particular out of each and every 3 surfers and, if untreated, can lead to discomfort and serious hearing loss.

The situation is brought on by prolonged exposure to cold water and impacts each young and old surfers. When the ear canal is irritated more than a extended period of time, it responds by increasing bone, correctly narrowing the canal and causing hearing loss.


Eventually, this bone development becomes so pronounced that it can lead to total hearing loss and can be treated only by cutting out or shaving down the bony development, a approach that needs a six- to eight-week recovery.

A healthy ear (leading) vs. surfer’s ear (bottom). Photo: struna/Shutterstock

“As we have developed very good wetsuits and surf year-round in colder and colder water, the irritation from the cold water is causing exostosis, or surfer’s ear,” says Dr. Ken Fujioka, a San Diego–based medical doctor and avid surfer who has undergone surfer’s ear surgeries on each and every ear. “I don’t know why we don’t hear about it more.”

In addition to major to hearing loss, the growths also trap water and lead to frequent infections, which can be specifically dangerous for these spending extended periods in the surf. Now that wetsuits are extending seasons longer and longer, that threat is amplified, even for younger surfers.

Surgery is the only genuine “cure” for surfer’s ear, but Fujioka notes that prevention is probably the most effective kind of therapy.

See these guys in the lineup sporting the earplugs? Many, if not all of them, are hoping to protect against surfer’s ear and some severe health-related headaches.

For these who assume earplugs impair hearing, a handful of organizations, like SurfEars out of Sweden, have created surf-precise plugs that let sound waves in when maintaining the genuine waves out.

Fujioka is unsure why there is so small publicity surrounding the ear injury, provided its prevalence in the surf neighborhood, but thinks that surfer’s ear will continue to develop as the sport becomes far more well known about the planet.

“I am amazed at the number of surfers that do not wear earplugs (my son included), and know surfer’s ear is no joke,” says Fujioka. “I have had the surgeries myself and I could not surf; it was no fun.”

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