What are ear canal exostoses?

Ear canal exostoses are bony growths which usually occur due to frequent exposure to cold water or air. This is most common from surfing in cold water, so they are often called “surfer’s ear”.

What problems do they cause?

Mild exostoses often don’t cause any symptoms, but as they enlarge the ear canal becomes narrow and causes problems with water getting trapped in the ear after swimming or surfing, which can also result in ear canal infections.

What is the treatment?

For less severe exostoses, using alcohol-based drops such as Aquaear after swimming can help dry the ear and reduce infections – note that these can’t be used if there is an ear drum perforation, and will sting if there is infection present.

Using ear plugs for swimming and surfing will prevent water trapping and infections as long as they stay in place and are effective at keeping the water out.

Surgery is also an option to remove the exostoses and widen the ear canal – discuss this with your ENT surgeon to see if this is the right option for you.