Ever feel like your ear is clogged after a long surf session? Surfers and swimmers who regularly brave cold water might be familiar with a condition called surfer’s ear, formally known as exostosis. This occurs when bony growths develop inside the ear canal due to repeated exposure to cold water and wind.

While these growths may cause no trouble initially, as they grow, they can lead to:

  • Hearing loss: As the bony bumps grow, they can block the ear canal, hindering sound from reaching the eardrum.
  • Recurring ear infections: Trapped water behind the blockage creates a breeding ground for bacteria, often leading to infection.
  • Pain and discomfort: Large exostoses can irritate the skin in the ear canal.

In these cases, surgery becomes necessary to remove the excess bone growth.

Traditional Surgery

The traditional method for exostosis removal involves:

  • An incision is made behind the ear to access the growth.
  • Use of a surgical drill to carefully remove the excess bone.

While effective, this approach comes with major drawbacks:

  • Scarring: The incision leaves a visible scar behind the ear.
  • Longer recovery: Healing from the incision often leads to a longer recovery time, keeping you out of the water for an extended period of time — the dread of most surfers.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Thankfully, advancements in medical technology have led to a minimally invasive surgical technique for treating surfer’s ear. This method offers several advantages:

  • Through the Canal: Unlike the traditional approach, minimally invasive surfer’s ear surgery involves removing the exostosis entirely through the ear canal, avoiding any external incisions.
  • Faster Healing: With no external wounds, recovery is significantly faster, allowing patients to return to normal activities sooner (often as soon as 3 weeks).
  • Reduced Scarring: No incisions behind the ear mean minimal to no visible scarring.
  • Improved Precision: Surgeons performing this technique employ microscopes and other specialized tools, enabling a high degree of precision and control during the bone removal process.

The Shohet Difference

It’s important to note that while minimally invasive surgery is gaining traction, many surgeons still rely on drills for exostosis removal. At Shohet Ear Associates, our surgeons specialize in this minimally invasive technique. This approach reduces the risk of injuring delicate inner ear structures and gets our patients back to doing what they love as soon as possible.

Interested in learning more about the surgical experience? Check out Bill Hurley’s story!

To make an appointment with one of our surgeons, click here.