Exostosis (Surfer’s ear)

Post Image

Exostosis (Surfer’s ear)

Exostosis (or as it is more commonly known: surfer’s ear) is a condition caused by increased ear canal bone growth resulting in narrowing or obstruction of the ear canal. This leads to hearing loss, water getting trapped in ears, wax build up, repeated ear infections and can lead to more serious infections and complications.

The condition is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to cold water or wind. Cold water exposure is more likely to cause surfer's ear than warm water exposure especially with activities such as swimming, kayaking, kite boarding and most commonly surfing.

Once the canal becomes very narrowed it will result in water and wax becoming trapped in the ear canals requiring regular removals by an ENT. Ear canal infections are common and become more severe requiring prolonged treatment with more extensive narrowing of canals. Hearing loss occurs when the canal becomes approximately 90% narrowed.


Most cases can be prevented and maintained by the use of ear protection. Multiple ear plugs are currently available with different designs for different requirements. Other methods of prevention include wearing a hood or special headband that covers and seals the ears. Wearing ear plugs and a hood or headband together adds even more protection.

Wax build up will require removal and repeated infections may require antibiotics.

The only way to completely treat surfer’s ear is with removal of the bony growths. I perform a chisel method removal of the bony growths (exostoses). This is performed through the ear canal with no cut behind the ear. If the use of a drill is required in certain cases, it would be discussed before the surgery. This is a day procedure and you would go home the same day.

Please contact me if you wish to have your ears evaluated for degree of narrowing or for regular cleaning and maintenance. If surgery is required, this can also be discussed at a consultation.