There are a lot of surfers who don’t wear ear plugs. There is also a population of surfers who feel strongly about wearing ear plugs and there is good reason for it. They like their hearing.
Wearing ear plugs when you surf will help you:
- Avoid developing surfer’s ear which is bone growth in the inner ear and is only treatable with surgery.
- Avoid swimmer’s ear which is a painful infection in the ear canal caused by (dirty) water.
Wear ear plugs when you surf if you love surfing and your hearing. It’s that simple.
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Who Should Wear Ear Plugs When Surfing?
Low Risk: If you are a weekend surfer or a surfer who only surfs every-so-often in the summer, chances are you won’t develop ear problems from surfing.
Medium to High Risk: You should consider wearing ear plugs when you surf if you are pre-disposed to ear infections regardless of your surfing frequently.
High Risk: Surfers who are in and out of the water multiple times a week and/or surf in cold and/or windy conditions should wear ear plugs when surfing. If this sound like you, you are the type of surfer who can develop surfer’s ear and/or swimmer’s ear.
Don’t take our word for it, here is professional surfer Conner Coffin telling you he wears ear plugs, specifically SurfEars, when surfing. Spoiler: He was getting ear infections every time he surf and his brother, dad and uncle already had surgery due to surfer’s ear.
Is Swimmer’s Ear The Same As Surfer’s Ear?
Both are bad and No, swimmer’s ear and surfer’s ear are very different.
What Is Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear is an infection that develops when water gets lodged in the ear canal.
This develops when bacteria is present in the water, or the water fails to drain out of the ear properly.
What Is Surfer’s Ear?
Surfer’s ear differs from swimmer’s ear because it involves bone growth, called exostoses, that develops in the ear canal due to too much exposure to cold water and/or wind.
This condition can eventually lead to hearing loss due to the blockage of the ear canal.
One of the main symptoms associated with this Surfer’s Ear is ear infections.
Waiting too long to obtain medical treatment can cause the condition to quickly escalate.
Surfer’s ear can be challenging to treat and often require scheduling multiple appointments with an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
Some people are prone to developing both swimmer’s and surfer’s ear at the same time, especially when they spend a significant amount of time in the water.
Do Earplugs Prevent Surfers Ear?
Using earplugs and wearing a hood when surfing are the best ways to prevent getting surfer’s ear as per UCI Health.
Difference In Treatments: Surfer’s Ear Vs Swimmer’s Ear
Treatments for surfer’s ear and swimmer’s ear are very different. One involves drops and the other involves surgery.
Treating Swimmer’s Ear
One of the most common forms of treating swimmer’s ear is to use ear drops to keep the ears dry after surfing.
Your doctor may alcohol-based drops to dry out your ear after surfing and/or prescribe antibiotics after getting diagnosed with an ear infection.
At-home treatments are also available and have proven to be successful to prevent swimmer’s ear, not necessarily to treat swimmer’s ear.
You can use a mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar to inhibit the growth of the fungi and bacteria in the ear.
Pour one teaspoon of the mixture into the affected ear and let it sit for a few seconds before you drain it back out.
How Long Does Swimmer’s Ear Last
With an antibiotic prescription, swimmer’s ear only lasts an average of seven to 10 days.
Treating Surfer’s Ear
The only successful form of treatment that is available for surfer’s ear is to surgically remove the bone growths that have formed.
Small chisels through the ear canal remove the bone.
Some medical professionals use a drill to remove any growths that are closer to the eardrum.
In some cases, an incision is made behind the ear if the growths are too close to the eardrum to reduce the risk of complications.
There are a lot fewer risks of complications when surgery is performed early on rather when the condition has escalated.
It’s crucial that water doesn’t enter the ear canal as the ear is healing after the procedure.
This requires patients to avoid surfing or swimming. When the patient returns to the water, it’s recommended to wear earplugs to prevent the bone growths from returning.
If the individual fails to protect their ears from water, the bone growths can develop even faster.
Differences In The Severity Of Swimmer’s Ear And Surfer’s Ear
In most cases, swimmer’s ear doesn’t get too severe or dangerous if you get proper treatment.
However, some types of complications can still develop at times.
Some individuals can suffer from temporary hearing loss.
Many people report everything sounding muffled until the infection starts to heal and clear up.
There’s also the risk of a long-term infection, which is called chronic otitis externa.
Swimmer’s ear can lead to outer ear infections when the symptoms continue for up to three months.
A rare strain of bacteria or an allergic reaction can make it more challenging to treat swimmer’s ear with ear drops that are prescribed by the doctor.
Deep tissue infections also develop in some individuals when the infection starts to spread into the connective tissues and deep layers of the skin.
In rare cases, the cartilage and bone can become damaged when the inspection begins to spread if treatment is not performed or isn’t effective.
Usually, older adults who have weakened immune systems or diabetes are at a higher risk of this type of complication, even when they seek treatment.
Widespread infections can also form and reach other parts of the body if the infection develops into skull base osteomyelitis. Although this is a rare situation, it can still be life-threatening.
Those who develop surfer’s ear can experience up to 90 percent of hearing loss, depending on the severity of the condition.
This occurs when surgery is not performed to remove the bone growths. Reoccurring infections can also start to develop after someone develops surfer’s ear.
They may be prone to developing it again in the future.
Surfer’s ear is preventable if you wear earplugs while spending time surfing or swimming in the ocean.
Wearing a hood or a headband that protects the ears from having contact with water will also prove to be effective.
This article should not be considered medical advice.
If you have any concerns about surfer’s ear or swimmer’s ear consider seeing your doctor.