Ear infections from surfing

Its the season for some of us to experience an increase in waterborne ear infections from rainfall runoff, i.e., pollution and bacteria, cold and the impacts of winters much more powerful waves… It does seem that the more years a person surfs in dirty water and/or in colder climates, the more frequently this illness tends to occur… So, if you`ve had ear infections from surfing (often ongoing and with severe consequences), how have you coped with it? Many thanks in advance.

Dale - I know this strays from board design but… “Surfer’s Ear” (exostosis) involves the narrowing of the little hole that goes to the inside. Frequently water can get trapped in there and causes problems. I’ve taken the liberty of cut/pasting portions of an article. My friend Jeff C. has had the drill twice. A Dr. with a scope can tell immediately if that’s what’s going on. Surfer’s ear may interfere with the normal clearance of earwax, skin-debris, and moisture from the ear canal. Debris accumulation (fungus, sand, wax) may lead to hearing loss and increase the likelihood of infection. Trapped water around the debris causes softening of the ear canal skin. Even a mild amount of swelling of the ear canal skin (due to an ear infection) may cause a complete closing of the ear canal. Pus under pressure may develop behind the obstruction and cause pain. Many surfers use ear plugs to keep cold water out of their ear canals. Custom ear plugs can be made through a local ear specialist or audiologist. Wax-like plugs can be shaped to your ear canals and purchased at most drug stores or pharmacies. Fancier ear plugs are available which block water but not sound, so you can still hear what’s going on around you. Prevention is the best cure! Alcohol lavage or spraying your ear canals with isopropyl alcohol (91%) is a good preventative measure. The alcohol will evaporate and dry up the excess water with it. Adding an ounce of white vinegar to a quart of alcohol with also stop bacterial and fungal growth. Acute episodes of surfer’s ear should be treated with careful cleaning of the ear canal with swabs and then adding anti-bacterial and anti-fungal topical drops. However, if you have a complete closing of the ear canal, these steps may not help. Instead, use sponge ear-wicks to allow drainage. Trim the ear-wicks to fit your ear canals. Insertion will be painful. You also need to take antibiotics. Patients who are not helped by these measures are potential candidates for surgery. The procedure, “canaloplasty”, involves the use of high-speed drills. The size of the damaged ear canal is greatly enlarged. Rare facial nerve injuries have been reported, however the risk is small because we use innovative techiniques to avoid the nerve. The ear canals will take about 2 months to heal. Recurrence of surfer’s ear after surgery has been reported with further cold water exposure, but this is rare.

I surfed the San Lorenzo Rivermouth(downtown Santa Cruz) a 5 or 6 springs back.I usually avoid it due to its reputation as one of the filthiest surfspots in our area but this time it was just too good to miss.Classic thin lipped peelers both rights and lefts,perfect chesthigh fun. I got an ear infection so bad,so deep it lowered my I.Q. and seemingly left me prone to ear-infections since. I can’t remember which anti-biotic the Doc gave me but they were big and expensive. The years go by but I still remember how good the waves were that day but the memory the ear infection is fading away. Doc’s Proplugs(from Hotline) and an echinatia impregnated wetsuit are a good call.

Its the season for some of us to experience an increase in waterborne ear > infections from rainfall runoff, i.e., pollution and bacteria, cold and > the impacts of winters much more powerful waves…>>> It does seem that the more years a person surfs in dirty water and/or in > colder climates, the more frequently this illness tends to occur…>>> So, if you`ve had ear infections from surfing (often ongoing and with > severe consequences), how have you coped with it? Many thanks in advance. I was diagnosed with about 60% closure in both ears maybe 20 years ago. Since the drill out back then was pretty much what it sounds like - a drill out- I wasn’t keen on experiencing it (or the expense since I didn’t have insurance then). I can’t imagine the water quality was any better back then, either. I tried the Pro-Plugs but didn’t have the patience to mess with the little leash things they had at the time, plus they just bugged me. A friend up in Cold Water Land solved my problem immediately by giving me a wetsuit hood (w/ visor) at Christmas. The theory was/is that the evaporative cooling makes the ear canals close and trap evil bacteria. Keeping the ear canals warm reduced the closing. Hoods keep the ears warm (but not dry). What John said about applying isopropol alcohol or mixture with vinegar AFTER SURFING kept me from any infections, although I didn’t do that religiously. I kept a soft plastic bottle with an applicator tip in the shower. I did and do wear the hood religiously, including summer. I admit I don’t wear it when visiting the tropics - so much hostility simmering in the usual places I don’t want to draw any bigger a target on myself than necessary. I figure most anywhere else I’d rather look stupid than be stupid. This, of course, tends to make one stand out visually in contemporary surfing, but what the hell. Side benefit of visored hoods - 20 years of reduced sun exposure on most of the head. Just zapping around the cheeks and nose at this point… The surfer’s ear operations sound very interesting. I was at a party a few years ago and a guy about 10 years older than me was telling me about having had both his ears done, at different times. The first time “They cut my ear off, peeled the skin forward so they could drill more or less straight in”. He felt that operation worked the best. The other ear was done with ear intact, and he didn’t think that worked as well. Needless to say, since it wasn’t a surfer party, that little tale stopped conversation. When we were leaving I was walking behind him, and sure enough he had a long scar behind his ear. Nels

Its the season for some of us to experience an increase in waterborne ear > infections from rainfall runoff, i.e., pollution and bacteria, cold and > the impacts of winters much more powerful waves…>>> It does seem that the more years a person surfs in dirty water and/or in > colder climates, the more frequently this illness tends to occur…>>> So, if you`ve had ear infections from surfing (often ongoing and with > severe consequences), how have you coped with it? Many thanks in advance. I took off the day before Thanksgiving and went to Rincon, my sinuses plugged up so bad from a couple of hold downs and then with in minutes I could feel the pressure moving across my face. I was awake for hours with my ear feeling like I was at 35,000 feet, it didn’t hurt, but I grabbed the trusty bottle of amoxicillian and took care of it pronto.

Its the season for some of us to experience an increase in waterborne ear > infections from rainfall runoff, i.e., pollution and bacteria, cold and > the impacts of winters much more powerful waves…>>> It does seem that the more years a person surfs in dirty water and/or in > colder climates, the more frequently this illness tends to occur…>>> So, if you`ve had ear infections from surfing (often ongoing and with > severe consequences), how have you coped with it? Many thanks in advance. as previously mentioned, the antibiotic of choice is amoxicillin and for those stubborn infections, augmentin (expensive as hell). on the holistic side, there is a garlic ear drop which is an oil base i believe. garlic is a known anti-bacterial and the oil base would serve as a water repellent. i have not used this myself, but it worked well on my kids when they were prone to ear infections…any pharmacy carries the drops, i think…

Its the season for some of us to experience an increase in waterborne ear > infections from rainfall runoff, i.e., pollution and bacteria, cold and > the impacts of winters much more powerful waves…>>> It does seem that the more years a person surfs in dirty water and/or in > colder climates, the more frequently this illness tends to occur…>>> So, if you`ve had ear infections from surfing (often ongoing and with > severe consequences), how have you coped with it? Many thanks in advance. Many years ago my Doc here in Santa Cruz, told me that my ear canals were beginning to close and that I needed to do something to protect them from the cold water and wind. I got a hood for the winter, and bought a nylon cap with visor and chin strap that had earflaps that covered my ears for the summer. Many years later I updated and replaced my hood with a lightweight thin hood (Thinskins Hood) that O’Neills manufactures. http://www.oneill.com/surf/catalog.phtml?state=Show_Specs&gender=m&cat=Hoods&series=&prodid=0747 I like it much better in the winter because it is lighter, less restrictive re head movement, allows for much better hearing than a wetsuit hood, and seems to keep my head as warm as the old hood. I should wear my summer “hat” more often but I’m not very disciplined about it, I like surfing with my head uncovered in the warm weather, and I look like a bigger geek than I already am with the “hat” on. I suppose when I get my first real skin cancer I’ll think differently about it. But the good news is that I haven’t had an ear infection or large measurable amount of ear canal closure in all this time. I do however, make every effort to stay out of contaminated water. It’s just not worth it even if it’s pumping. (But did you say no-one was out?)

I should wear my summer “hat” more often but I’m not very > disciplined about it, I like surfing with my head uncovered in the warm > weather, and I look like a bigger geek than I already am with the > “hat” on. I suppose when I get my first real skin cancer I’ll > think differently about it. When you get your first real skin cancer, or pre-cancerous lesion, you will be 20 years too late for prevention. Peak surfing years are probably your first 10 spent year 'round. If you are beyond that (or in the tropics) you can still cut down on the cumulative damage. Ears are a prime skin cancer location, too…they take a beating inside and out. Plus, if/when skin cancers are locatedand removed (frozen off etc), then you have to stay out of the water to keep the wounds from getting infected. Nels

So does that mean you haven’t been out the past couple of weeks?Last night before dark was fun,we took a walk about 9 and with the moon and the wharf lights Cowell’s looked fun and truly nobody out.Wear the hat this spring,you’ll be glad.

It`s the season for some of us to experience an increase in waterborne ear > infections from rainfall runoff, i.e., I have tried many types of ear plugs, but all leak during a big wipe out. I have one ear that needs to stay dry…really dry.

I have tried many types of ear plugs, but all leak during a big wipe out. > I have one ear that needs to stay dry…really dry. Screw it, lets go surfing!

Screw it, lets go surfing! With all due respect, thats the same attitude (Ive also shared it for most of my life) that has eventually gotten quite a few of us deeper in trouble with health problems related to surfing (such as inner ear infections), especially in bacteria-laden, polluted cold water… ever hear of a mastoid infection? Those of us who love the ocean and surfing, and are committed for the long run, are sometimes forced to pause and take care of ourselves, doing what we can to prevent increasingly serious damage that would threaten to end ANY more time in the water…

Screw it, lets go surfing! Normally, I would take this position, however at present I enjoy hearing too much. I like the sound of a nice pre-war D28 too much! Damn, I wish the water was not so dirty. (I’m in Santa Barbara) Maybe someone can invent some kind of spaceman bubble helmet that can keep my ears dry.

So, if you`ve had ear infections from surfing (often ongoing and with > severe consequences), how have you coped with it? Many thanks in advance. A couple years ago, water would stay in my ear for 24 hours after every surf, even worse if I surfed a couple days in a row. I tried Doc’s ProPlugs but I could never get them to stay in my ears during wipeouts. Infections were pretty regular and my doc prescribed a topical solution, Tobradex, which is normally for eye infections, but it worked well, and I can use it whenever I start to feel something funny going on in the ear. I eventually got drilled (canaloplasty, through the ear, not behind) and have not had problems since. I also tried a bunch of different ear plugs and have found that the cheapy ones from your local drugstore worked the best. They look a bit like a Christmas tree and they keep my ears dry. As somebody else said, alcohol/white vinegar solution lavage is really helpful post-sesh to really dry/clean out your ears. My ear canals seem to be super-sensitive as they had closed 80-90% within just 5 years of surfing 3-4 days a week. Take care of your ears! more info: http://www.earaces.com/surfear.htm Gioni http://www.earaces.com/surfear.htm

I eventually got drilled (canaloplasty, through the ear, not behind) and > have not had problems since. I also tried a bunch of different ear plugs > and have found that the cheapy ones from your local drugstore worked the > best. They look a bit like a Christmas tree and they keep my ears dry. Now that I think about it, a couple of years ago I saw a few Zuma lifeguards using the silicone plugs. With all the sand bubbling around there I can’t imagine they lasted long but they are hard to beat for comfort, especially if your ears are already a little tweaked.