As well as all the obvious risks with watersports, there is a risk of deafness for all surfers, by a relatively unknown condition caused by the cold sea. It’s called Exostosis, otherwise known as’ Surfer’s Ear’.
With more and more people taking up water sports, we are seeing all ages either suffering from the condition or looking to prevent it. Completely different from ‘Swimmer’s Ear’, this condition is caused by the effects of long-time exposure to icy wind and chilly water. Over time, these elements can cause the ear canal to develop lumps of bony growth, which can eventually block the ear canal. As well as surfers, anyone regularly in and out of cold water can be hit by this condition; so that includes those participating in sports such as windsurfing, open water swimming, and kayaking.
Academic studies have shown that as many as 80% of surfers (or cold water sportsmen and women) develop Surfer’s Ear after 10 years of water activity or 3000 hours in the water. If you feel you may be one such enthusiast, we thoroughly recommend you have your ears checked and hearing tested. Prevention is better than cure – it is vitally important that you protect and prevent against this condition by wearing custom-moulded earplugs made of medical grade silicone.
Pete Galvin, (above), a 54-year-old Illustrator and regular surfer, had never really heard of the condition and certainly hadn’t given any thought to protecting his ears over the years as he braved the chilly waters. “Before, I would go out surfing for hours at a time, in all seasons and whatever the weather. Ear protection just wasn’t on my radar.” Unfortunately, repeated exposure to the elements began to take its toll and Pete began to experience some strange tinnitus symptoms and then he suddenly couldn’t hear. He made an appointment to see Aston Hearing Services, Old Amersham. “Audiologist Duncan Collet-Fenson took a look in my ears with a camera and said he thought I had Surfer’s Ear in both ears. He could see some significant bony lumps which were closing up my ear canals. They were about 98% blocked, so Duncan referred me to Ian Bottrill, my local ENT Consultant – and the decision was taken to operate.”
“The whole experience really scared me, particularly when I went deaf. I know I can’t give up my sport, so the best thing is to seek help to ensure my ears are kept warm and dry. Aston Hearing Services have created some excellent bespoke earplugs for me and I religiously use them.”