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Have a doctor check your ears for exostoses/surferís ear
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isobars



Joined: 12 Dec 1999
Posts: 14310

PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 9:18 pm    Post subject: Have a doctor check your ears for exostoses/surferís ear Reply with quote

Thatís the bony growths in our ear canals apparently caused by prolonged exposure to chilly air or cool (60's) water (e.g., winter sports, water sports, outdoor work). Most cool-water surfers get them, so thereís no reason to think we wonít find them appearing in many WSers. They can form in just years or can take decades; mine took >30 years to grow from observable to significantly problematic, but some CA surfers need surgery for them in their 20s. If not too close to the eardrum, they can usually be safely monitored until they block the ear canal to maybe the 60-80% level, at which point they can trap water and risk recurrent infection and may start impairing hearing. Wait too long and those problems magnify and make surgery mandatory, urgent, and much more difficult.

Find Ďem early, Google them to learn about them, monitor them, and be willing and ready to have them removed on your own schedule rather than in an emergency in the middle of sailing season. The surgery will keep you off the water for a month or two, and you donít want just any ENT surgeon to remove them. The risks of collateral damage require plenty of experience. Many exostoses patients travel to CAís surfing meccas for the surgery.

After extensive Googling, I almost did. The leading specialist in the technique I favored (chisel rather than drill) is in Silicon Valley. I found no ENT surgeons in Seattle or Portland with the training, experience and reputation I wanted (I have only one functioning ear, so collateral damage is not acceptable), but I really didnít want to travel for days for the procedure and again for followup. Further research led to a much closer surgeon for me with excellent experience and reputation plus extensive training in a prestigious CA ear institute. My symptoms (primarily inability to get water out of one ear) were increasing, and my doctor pegged my occlusion at 80%, so it was clear that Iíd need the surgery within a year or three. I chose now, as in two days ago.

It was a non-event so far. He was able to chisel them out through the ear canal [rather than the (and his) usual method of cutting/folding the outer ear forward to expose the field, drilling out the exostoses, and reattaching the ear.] So far, zero discomfort even without drugs, not even Tylenol, after the first day. Assuming the ear canal heals properly, I should be home free. I feel 100% now, but some restrictions remain for a month Ö two months if the outer ear is moved out of the way for drill access. The bottom line seems to be that if we donít fix this common problem before it becomes urgent, itís not nearly so easy. Pay attention.

Mike \m/
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pjs



Joined: 06 Jul 1999
Posts: 29

PostPosted: Mon Feb 24, 2014 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been sailing with Doc's Proplugs ever since I did a little eardrum damage landing a pretty high jump on the side of my face. Once you get the right size they fit great and don't pop out even when you're getting worked in the surf (I found they came out more when I was using the leashed version since the leash kept getting caught in my wetsuit collar). The vented ones also don't completely mess up your hearing.

After you use them for a few months, you start to feel kind of naked when you're on the water without them.

https://www.proplugs.com/
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isobars



Joined: 12 Dec 1999
Posts: 14310

PostPosted: Mon Feb 24, 2014 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent idea, but how many WSers/kiters do we see wearing plugs? In my neighborhood ... ONE. They're all indestructible.
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U2U2U2



Joined: 06 Jul 2001
Posts: 3077
Location: Shipsterns Bluff, Tasmania. Colorado

PostPosted: Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have it in my right ear, no ill effects so far. I started using the DOCs ProPlugs after it was diagnosed, they have a tiny hole that allows some wind /sound sensation to reach inside, (think water is blocked somehow)

sizing is a little sensitive, seem to lose the same side all the time. They have a optional cord, but it breaks at the attachment.

Work great except operator error

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rswabsin



Joined: 14 May 2000
Posts: 218
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Mon Feb 24, 2014 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just curious if anyone knows how effective wearing a wet suit hood is in preventing exostoses. I spend a lot of time in cold water both surfing and windsurfing but almost always wear the hood on my suit when the air and water temps drop into the 50's and below - mostly cause it keeps me warm but it seems to help keep most of the cold water out.

Rob
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isobars



Joined: 12 Dec 1999
Posts: 14310

PostPosted: Mon Feb 24, 2014 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apparently, everything we can do to limit our ears' long term exposure to air and especially water below roughly 65 degrees helps prevent them. Surfers, including us I presume, are advised to use both earplugs and a neoprene hood in cooler water.

I can't do it. I'd overheat @ 65 with a hood. I plan to use earplugs all the time now, add a neoprene headband in water below the mid 60s, and add a silicone skullcap when it's cold enough to tolerate it.
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manuel



Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 148

PostPosted: Mon Feb 24, 2014 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love my simple foam ear plugs (cut in half, really small). Dampens sail crinkling sound and board slapping.
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beallmd



Joined: 10 May 1998
Posts: 1074

PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice discussion by Iso on this problem. Mostly they form when you're young, they don't grow as much or as fast as you get older. The surgery does have risk to the ear drum but more importantly the facial nerve, which can be a miserable problem. Doc's pro-plugs were made by an ENT (I'm an ENT doc also) from Santa Cruz who kept seeing the surfer kids with severe growths in the ear canals requiring surgery. He then developed what is still the best ear plug available to help the kids and then went commercial with it, nicely done. Mine come from surfing from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz as a kid-I remember the first wetsuit that we got from Oneill (1962). We had fires on the beach to warm up with after a sesh.
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paulf.



Joined: 21 Mar 1996
Posts: 320

PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

isn't the problem head in the cold water prone surfing vs. the occasional dunking we get as windsurfers?
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isobars



Joined: 12 Dec 1999
Posts: 14310

PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For those reasons, I suspect, my surgeon left my 3 or 4 smallest exostoses intact and may not have excised the larger ones as thoroughly as he might have if I had two ears to work with. As you docs know, the collateral risks vary with exostosis location within the ear canal; I hope the surgeon's pulse and focus went up a bit when working on the bumps in the more vulnerable areas.

I suspect he was pleased at my response to the nurse who called three days later to ask how I was doing: "Ooohhhh, that's right! I had forgotten that I had surgery Friday. It was and remains a non-event." I doubt I'd be feeling that way if he had removed my outer ear and done it the usual way. I'm also damned glad I did my homework, got examined by a surgeon, and decided to proceed on my own timetable with minimal urgency.

BTW, and preemptively, anyone who thinks this thread is about me rather than about ears and WSing will change that tune when you find bony obstruction in your ear canals.
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