Hearing loss has many causes, and in many cases, can be prevented. What many don’t know is that cold weather can actually cause hearing loss. Exostosis, commonly known as “surfer’s ear,” is a condition that causes bone to thicken, leading to a narrowing (and occasionally, a complete blockage or “occlusion”) of the ear canal. It can result in significant conductive hearing loss over time. Exostosis is common not just for surfers, but those who ski, snowboard, fish, kayak and sail.
Symptoms of Exostosis
As the ear canal narrows, water, dirt and earwax can become trapped inside, resulting in frequent ear infections. The infections as well as a loss of hearing and the sensation of “plugged up” ears that do not drain are the primary symptoms of surfer’s ear. The condition itself is not dangerous, but left untreated, the danger of occlusion and accompanying hearing loss increases.
Treatment for Exostosis
Treatment usually involves an outpatient surgical procedure, conducted by an ENT, known as canalplasty. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. A surgeon uses a binocular microscope and drills or chisels out the bone growth. The surgeon usually performs this surgery through the ear canal, but may also make an incision behind the ear. While recovering from this procedure, it is very important to not expose the ear canal to water, as this could lead to further infections. Recovery takes between a few weeks and a few months.
Avoiding outdoor sports, especially surfing and swimming, in extremely cold water or during especially windy conditions is the key to preventing surfer’s ear. In addition, keeping the ear canals warm and dry by wearing earplugs, a swim cap or a hood can all help. Custom earmolds are your best bet to ensuring a tight seal and all-day comfort, and are always recommended by our doctors.
To learn more or to get your own set of custom earmolds, call today to schedule an appointment.