Surfer’s ear is a common cause of hearing loss in younger people. It is caused by the cooling of the outer ear and the bone behind it by sea water and wind. Here we will blow four surfer’s ear fallacies out of the water.
1) Alcohol and vinegar mix prevent surfers ear. Many surfers think that a mixture of alcohol and vinegar will protect them against surfer’s ear if they put it in their ears after being in the sea. This is not true. Some people believe that the vinegar dissolves the bony lumps but the overlying skin means that the vinegar does not reach the bone. The mixture is good at preventing swimmer’s ear; infection of the outer ear. Both these agents are effective at killing fungi and alcohol is also good at killing bacteria.
2) A surfer’s ear operation stops the condition coming back. Having your ear canal chiselled or drilled to treat surfer’s ear does not stop it coming back. A significant number of people have the operation more than once. The only way to prevent the condition is to wear ear plugs and a cap whenever you go in the sea.
3) Ear plugs are enough to prevent surfer’s ear. Recent research by ZenPlugs showed that most surfers believed that wearing ear plugs was enough to prevent surfer’s ear. Most were not aware that a cap is also required to keep the condition at bay. This is because the cooling effect of the water and wind also acts on the bone behind the ear.
4) Surfing in summer and tropical waters does not cause surfer’s ear. It seems logical that if surfer’s ear is caused by cold wind and water then surfing in the summer or in tropical waters will not cause the condition. This is not the case. A surfing cap and ear plugs both need to be worn in all conditions because wind chill and evaporation of water from the here and the bone behind it can both cool the area below air temperature.
Summary. The only way to prevent surfer’s ear is to wear a cap and ear plugs. Wear them all year round and in all climates to give yourself full protection.