If you are a regular surfer it is likely that you have heard of surfer’s ear. It is a condition affecting surfers, sea swimmers and anyone who spends time in the sea without taking precautions.
The cooling effect of the wind and sea water on the outer part of the ear and the bone behind it leads to small bony lumps forming. They gradually grow around the opening to the ear. This leads to progressive deafness and an increased risk of ear infections.
ZenPlugs wanted to find out how much people knew about prevention. In addition they wanted to know how much effect taking precautions makes to the risk of the condition.
They conducted a survey which was completed by 203 people. They found that most people knew that they needed to wear ear plugs only a small minority were aware that they needed to wear a surfing cap as well. The reason for the cap is that it keeps the mastoid bone warm; this is the bony lump behind the ear. It contains air cells which connect to the middle ear space and so cooling here can also lead to surfer’s ear.
The survey found that without any precautions people were developing surfer’s ear after 8 or 10 years of surfing. The more they wore both hat and plugs the longer they went without surfer’s ear. If they wore them for at least 90% of the time they all remained free of the condition at the time of the survey, reducing their risk of surfer’s ear by 17 times. For some people this was after surfing regularly for more than 23 years.
The surfers in the survey had spent an average of 2880 hours in the water. This was from an average of 2 hours per surf, 8 surfs a month and 15 years of surfing. As you can see, they were a keen group of surfers.
Summary. Wearing a surfing cap and surfing ear plugs more than 90% of the time you are in the water reduces your risk of developing surfer’s ear by 17 times.