Exostosis or surfer's ear

Definition: what is exostosis of the ear?

Surfer's ear, or exostosis, is a pathology of bone tissue often as a result of the reoccurrence of an irritating event, such as a trauma or infection. It consists of benign formations of bone tissue in the ear canal, which can cause a more or less severe decrease in hearing. The name comes from the frequency of the condition in people who participate in water sports where they are exposed to water and wind, such as surfing.

Prevalence of exostosis: how many people are affected?

Currently, there is no data on the prevalence of exostosis in the ear, but it is known that people in their 30s and 40s are the most affected and that men are more affected than women.

Causes of exostosis of the ear

The causes of ear canal exostosis are still unclear. As it is a common condition among people who surf, dive or sail, doctors believe the cause is exposure to water and wind. Other possible causes, even if not yet officially confirmed, can be:

  • Trauma or injury to the bone which will then be affected by the exostosis;
  • Osteomyelitis
  • A genetic anomaly
  • A process of chronic irritation of a specific anatomical portion.

Signs and symptoms of exotosis of the ear

Ear canal exostosis can affect one or both ears, the identification of the pathology can be particularly problematic as it often has an asymptomatic or paucisymptomatic course. However, when the symptoms appear, it manifests itself with the following ones:

What are the consequences of exostosis?

In cases of advanced thickening or hardening of the bony growths in the ear canal, water will have difficulty exiting the ear canal, causing recurrent infections, hearing loss, and continued perception of noise and rustling.

How is surfer's ear disease or exostosis treated?

In the event that the obstruction of the external auditory canal due to exostosis is less than 60%, therefore in the mildest cases, a conservative therapy can be proceeded consisting of frequent aspiration and cleaning of the ear, with regular gentle washing of the external auditory canal, resulting in regular checkups to monitor the growth of the exostosis. Ear exostosis is a form of benign tumor, so the only form of treatment, if preventive therapy is not sufficient, lies in the surgical operation.

Surfer's ear surgery: is it painful?

Surgery to remove bony growths in the ear canal can be completed through various surgical techniques, which mainly depend on the choice of the access route to be followed for the removal of the exostosis. The intervention can be behind-the-ear or endaural.

Depending on the technique used, the surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia or local anesthesia. and recovery time may take weeks to months. After surgery, it is possible for these excrescences to resurge if the ear is not carefully protected from cold water and wind.


Complications and risks of the surgery

Surgery to remove the exostosis can cause some complications, including:

How can exostosis or surfer's ear be prevented?

To avoid suffering from ear exostosis, keep the ear canal as dry and warm as possible, especially in windy and cold conditions, using silicone earplugs, headbands or caps for outdoor excursions.

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