Exostoses (Surfer’s Ear)

Exostoses are bony growths of the external auditory canal as a result of long term exposure to cold water and wind.

exostoses
An image showing significant bony narrowing of the external auditory canal. The ear drum cannot be seen due to these growths.

Most of the time either prevention of water entering the ear canal or ensuring any water is removed after swimming will manage the condition adequately.

Occasionally when there are recurrent infections, constant blockages, and even hearing loss, surgical intervention (exostectomy)  is required. This often occurs when the canal itself is narrowed by more than 80%.

Exostectomy is a delicate operation that involves drilling of the bony growths while preserving the skin covering of the bony growths. To optimise clearance and safety, a small incision is made behind the ear. Care must be taken to protect the jaw joint and the tympanic membrane. The major downside of surgery is that the ear remains blocked with packing for up to 2 months. This is to ensure that healthy skin grows to cover the bone of the widened ear canal. Following surgery one can return to swimming and surfing within a few days, with some minor precautions.

Please contact us for a formal assessment, and further information regarding simple control measures or whether the need for more interventional management is required.