Ear Canal


What is it?

Surfer’s Ear is the common name for exostoses (abnormal bone growth) in the ear canal. It is a common condition, and in most cases, it doesn’t cause any problems.

What causes it?

Over time, irritation from cold wind and water causes new bone to grow within the ear canal. It can occur in people whose activities lead to ears being repeatedly exposed to prolonged, cold temperatures – surfing, diving, swimming, kayaking, sailing and the occasional freezer store man!

How does it effect people?

Wax, debris and water may become trapped, which may lead to frequent infections. In very advanced cases the entire ear canal becomes blocked, causing hearing loss.

How to help yourself

  • take preventative action by keeping your ears warm and dry – use Blutak, earplugs and/or a hood
  • use air to dry your ears after water exposure – a hair dryer, air puffer or flapping a piece of cardboard
  • attend a consultation at TOLBECS every 6 months – to clear the ear canal of debris and have your ears checked
  • micro-suction is the only safe method to clear the ear canal – ear syringing may squirt the wax and debris deeper into the narrowed ear canal where it becomes jammed and easily leads to infection.
  • avoid ear drops unless the ear canal is cleared first – the skin/wax debris can become runny or swollen with the added moisture and may move down into the deep canal behind the exostoses.


If a person with extensive exostoses has frequent ear infections or the ear canal becomes blocked, then surgical removal may be the best option. The procedure is called an exostectomy and will be performed by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ORL) Specialist in a Private or Public Hospital.