07 May 2020

Almost all Australian surfers have “surfer’s ear”

More than 80% of Australian surfers suffer from external auditory exostosis (surfer’s ear), according to a study.

An Australian study investigated the prevalence and the awareness of external auditory exostosis (EAE) among Australian surfers. In the study, auditory exostosis was diagnosed in 95% of the professional surfers and in 83 % of the recreational surfers. Most of the surfers had external auditory exostosis in both ears.

What is external auditory exostosis?

External auditory exostosis (EAE) is multiple, benign bony growths towards the lumen of the external ear canal in response to repeated exposure to cold water. “Surfer's ear” is the common name for an exostosis, as exostosis is commonly found among surfers and kayakers.

Most severe among professionals

The recreational surfers had mild grade EAE (grade 1) as the most common presentation as opposed to professionals who mostly had severe grade EAE (grade 3).

The consequences of exostosis

Of those participants reporting otological symptoms, the most common complaints were water trapping (89% of professional surfers, 67% of recreational surfers), impacted wax (83% of professional surfers, 62% of recreational surfers) and hearing loss (44% of professional surfers, 49% of recreational surfers).

High awareness – low prevention

The awareness of the term ‘surfer’s ear’ was high for both groups, as was knowledge of prevention options. The number of surfers who had previously sought medical advice due to otological symptoms was around 60% in both groups. Despite a high level of awareness, the use of prevention methods was low and few considered the condition to be preventable.

Participants in the study

A total of 113 surfers (90% males) participated in the study. 93 were recreational surfers and 20 were professionals. The surfers in the study were recruited from Australian board rider clubs, professional surfing organisations and through advertising in newspapers, surfing magazines, surfing websites and surf shops.

The study “Australian surfers’ awareness of ‘surfer’s ear’” was published in the journal BMJ Open.

Sources: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov and the journal BMJ Open

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