What is Surfer’s Ear & How to Prevent It! (2020)

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Beginner or advanced, Surfers Ear is the most common condition that happen to all surfers. So what is Surfer’s ear and how to prevent it? We will explain what you need to know below

What is Surfer’s Ear?

The word “Surfer’s Ear” makes it looks like every surfer has a different type of ear. Well kind of, but the name surfer’s ear is used because it is common to surfers. It also helps to distinguish with ‘swimmers ear’.

Here’s the illustration on what it looks like:

surfer's ear
Surfer’s Ear

So Surfer’s Ear is a condition where extra bone grows as a lump in the ear canal.It is caused by the exposure to cold water and wind, especially the combination of both because wind gives extra chilling factor when the ears are wet.

This extra bone is called Exostosis, an abnormal bone that grows. This condition actually a body’s defense mechanism to protect eardrum. But then, it could lead to infection because this bone can block water and wax and trap them inside the ear canal.

As surfers, we are frequently exposed to windy and wet conditions. So yeah, most surfers that got surfer’s ear has a different type of ear, at least inside the ear canal. Even tho’ it mostly happens to cold water surfers, warm water surfers can also get this because of wind.

Surfer’s ear is not the same as swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear is caused by water retained in the ear canal causing a bacterial infection.

Surfer’s Ear Symptoms

So what are the symptoms and how do you know if you have surfer’s ear? Surfer’s ear symptoms are as follow:

  • ear infections causing ear pain
  • water getting trapped in your ear
  • hearing loss
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If you are feeling water inside your ear canal, shaking your head, but still no water comes out or still feeling the water inside, big chance is you already get it.

You need to check with the doctor as soon as possible because the symptoms will get worse, the lumps will grow bigger and your ear canal could close over that can lead to hearing loss.

The main problem with surfer’s ear symptoms are it takes time to develop making us sometimes forget. According to HSE, surfer’s ear develops over time. It may take 10 to 15 years for the symptoms to appear.

So, whenever you are surfing and getting the feeling of water stuck in your ear canal for days, go to the doctor as soon as possible.

What Caused Surfer’s Ear?

Surfers ear can happen at any age and proportional to the amount of time spent in cold wet water, and windy weather without proper surfing accessories.

As explained above, the main cause is because we spend time in the water, and windy weather. This will increase the chance of bone growing bone inside ear canal.

But the problem is prevention, we tend to forget or don’t know about it and keep surfing without prevention.

So how to prevent surfer’s ear?


Stop surfing is not the answer.

So, the only prevention is to use proper equipment for surfing and start a new habit after surfing.

  • Use earplug. For surfers, you can buy Surf Ear that is specifically made for surfers to prevent surfer’s ear. It comes with a price, but totally worth it. An alternative to Surf Ear is to use Blutack, cheaper but the downside is you almost can’t hear while surfing.
surf ears 3.0
Surf Ears 3.0
  • Use a wetsuit hood. This is more advanced and might looks “ugly”. But for your health, then it’s a must!
  • Use ear drops after surfing to help dry the water inside the ear canal. Be careful with the amount tho’ because it can also make your skin dry.
  • Blow dryer after a surf session. Use it around your ear with low intensity to help dry the water.
  • Shake your head up and down vertically after a surf session.
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If the condition is severe, the only treatment is to remove the bony growths (exostoses) by surgery. Therefore it is always better to do prevention.

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