Does Cold Weather Affect Your Hearing

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.

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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.

Preventing Exostosis

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.

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Jody Vaynshtok

Jody is a California-licensed speech language pathologist with eight years of industry and clinical experience. She has worked with both adult and pediatric populations during her time at private practice, birth-to-three, and hospital facilities. She is experienced in the assessment and treatment of a variety of communication and cognitive disorders. In addition, Jody has a passion for working with adults looking to achieve clearer communication. Jody received her BS in Speech and Hearing Sciences and MS in Medical Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Washington. She was a part of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford’s cleft and craniofacial clinic participating in the multidisciplinary assessment and treatment of children born with craniofacial abnormalities. She holds a staff position at UCSF and is the lead speech language pathologist for the department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery’s Hearing Loss Clinic. When she's not busy having fun with her clients Jody enjoys spending time with her husband, Anton, friends and family. And if she's not headed out somewhere fun for dinner, you might find her at Bar Method working out!