There are a few main differences in the symptoms between swimmer’s ear and surfer’s ear.
Is Swimmer’s Ear The Same As Surfer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear is an infection that develops when water gets lodged in the ear canal.
This develops when there are bacteria present in the water, or the water fails to drain out of the ear properly.
Surfer’s ear differs because it involves bone growth, called exostoses, that develops in the ear canal due to too much exposure to cold water.
This condition can eventually lead to hearing loss due to the blockage of the ear canal.
One of the main symptoms associated with this condition is an ear infection.
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.
Difference In Treatments: Surfer’s Ear vs Swimmer’s Ear
One of the most common forms of treating swimmer’s ear is to use ear drops and to keep the ears dry.
Your doctor may prescribe this after you schedule an appointment and are diagnosed with the infection.
At-home treatments are also available and have proven to be successful.
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.
With a prescription, swimmer’s ear only lasts an average of seven to 10 days.
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.