Exostoses are bony outgrowths of the external auditory canal. They typically line both the front and back of the canal and can cause narrowing of the canal, which can be extensive. Exostoses occur more often in people exposed to cold water and wind, such as surfers and divers (so, it’s sometimes called “surfer’s ear”).
Exostoses usually don’t cause any symptoms early on. As they grow, they begin to fill the external auditory canal, trapping water. This leads to infections (external otitis) and because of the altered shape of the ear canal, these infections can be more difficult to treat. If you have exostoses and get recurring infections, you might be a candidate for surgical removal of the exostoses. Rarely, exostoses will cause a conductive hearing loss because it acts like a bony earplug. In these cases, surgery can help to eliminate the hearing loss. If you engage in activities that might predispose you to exostoses, you should consider wearing earplugs. Patients who have significant external canal exostoses without recurrent infection or hearing loss should be observed and have their ear canals cleaned periodically.
At House Clinic, all treatment options are offered for surfer’s ear, from medical therapy and cleanings, to surgery for severe cases.