What is Surfer’s Ear?

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Surfer’s Ear, also called Ear Canal Exostoses, is a formation of compact bony growths that occur in the ear canal. This disease develops over many years and is particularly prevalent among water sports athletes. Many water sports enthusiasts are affected, especially surfers, hence the name ‘Surfer’s Ear’. Nevertheless, Surfer’s Ear is also often found amongst kite surfers. It is strongly believed that the cause of bone growth is due to cold water and wind. The constant change of temperature in the ear canal leads to the growth of the bony canal wall, a reaction of the body to protect the eardrum.

surfers ear growth

Affected Persons:

All watersports people in general can be affected: surfers, kitesurfers, sailors, canoeists and kayakers, wakeboarders, people who regularly do rafting and many more. All people who practice any kind of water sport can develop Surfer’s Ear, but surfers and kite surfers are especially vulnerable. Approximately 30 per cent of all surfers eventually develop ear infections and deafness, caused by the Exostoses. The disease is common among the 35+ generation who have spent longer in the wind and water than the younger age groups.

ear pain

Symptoms & Consequences:

The symptoms are commonly earache, deafness and water entrapment in the ear. The bony growths cause narrowing inside the ear canal; as a result, water cannot drain out of the ear canal as easily as before. The result is that water is trapped, and infections occur, causing pain and hearing loss. If Surfer’s Ear is allowed to develop, the bony growths will ultimately close the ear canal completely, causing complete deafness. 

Surfer’s Ear need not develop this far. If you think you might have Surfer’s Ear, make an appointment today and speak directly to one of our doctors who can tell you via an online telemedicine consultation if you are affected and, after the diagnosis is made, discuss the treatment with you.


To prevent Surfer’s Ear, doctors recommend various methods. For example, certain oils can help, earplugs and hoods can prevent or minimise cold water and wind from getting into the ear and even blow-drying the ear after sport is sometimes helpful. 

What you should not do is to try to get rid of the water with a cotton swab. This will cause irritation and can possibly intensify the pain and increase the infection, worsening the consequences of Surfer’s Ear.

All these methods are only meant as preventive measures. If you already feel pain and have other symptoms of the condition, the best solution for you for this problem may be surgical removal. If you book our Medical Trip to Cape Town, you will not only get excellent care at excellent value for money with the least invasive and safest exostosis surgery with the shortest recovery time possible, but will also have the opportunity to explore Cape Town, the most beautiful city in this world.

surfers ear surgery

A short video summarizing all about Surfer’s Ear –
From the diagnosis to the operation