The medical term for ‘swimmers ear’ is exostosis. Symptoms include a decrease in hearing sensitivity and often an increased prevalence of ear infections. Early symptoms include water getting trapped in the ear canal after swimming. This results in debris being trapped leading to ear infections, often resulting in surgery.
Exostosis is most commonly treated by a surgical procedure to remove the bony growth in the ear canal. There are two different approaches to the surgery, the first uses a small incision behind the ear and the excess bone growth is removed using a surgical drill, and the second uses a drill to remove the bone growth from inside of the ear canal itself. After the surgery, it is important for the patient to avoid all cold water activities for up to 8 weeks in order to prevent complications or infections.
Can exostosis return after surgery?
Repeated cold water exposure can cause regrowth of bone, but after surgical removal it is extremely rare to need the procedure a second time.
Will exostosis improve if left untreated?
No. The bone growth is irreversible once formed.
Is exostosis preventable?
Yes: Exostosis is completely preventable if you follow these basic safety precautions:
- Avoid activity during extremely cold conditions
- Use custom made swim-molds to prevent exposure to cold water. In Ireland, the water is cold enough at any time of the year to cause exostosis!. Exostosis is most commonly experienced by frequent swimmers (pool and sea), surfers, kite surfers and wind surfers.
- Custom ear plugs are created by making an impression of the ear canal and creating a plug that is customised to the individual patient. These are more comfortable and work better than over-the-counter one-size-fits-all solutions.
Where can I get custom swim moulds?
At Galway Hearing Care we custom make swim moulds in a range of colours.