Surfing, swimming and other watersports are fantastic – and fun – ways to stay fit and healthy. While there are obvious health benefits to spending time in the water – particularly for exercise – there are some things you should consider if you’re planning to take up one of these hobbies. For example, looking after your skin and hair. But perhaps the most important thing to consider if you’re spending a lot of time in the water is how to look after your ears.It may not always be obvious to see, but professional swimmers and surfers usually wear earplugs in the water for protection. In particular, there are two conditions you should be aware of: surfer’s ear and swimmer’s ear. The two conditions are often confused, so here’s a handy guide to tell the difference between them.

What is Surfer’s Ear?

Surfer’s ear is caused by a combination of cold water and wind hitting the inside of the ear, which is typical when people expose themselves to these elements regularly. It commonly occurs in surfers, hence the name, but can also affect people who regularly take up watersports such as kayaking or water skiing.

The combination of water and wind causes the body to react in order to protect the ear canal – and this results in increased bone growth. The ear canal can develop lumps where the bone has grown to ‘block’ water from getting inside. This process is called exostosis. This growth will speed up if the surfer repeatedly exposes their ears to these elements without effective protection. Typically, surfer’s ear will affect one ear more than the other due to the fact surfers will usually expose one side of their body to lashing waves more.

Symptoms of surfer’s ear:
• You could experience hearing loss
• You could become more susceptible to ear infections, which can be incredibly painful
• You may find it more difficult to get water out of your ear after surfing, because your ear canal is not as smooth as it should be

Treatment and Prevention

In severe cases, surfers may have to have an operation which typically uses a drill to remove the extra bone growth.Luckily, there are plenty of ways to prevent surfer’s ear if you’re spending a lot of time riding the waves in a chilly climate. These include wearing protective clothing while surfing – and choosing a good, reliable pair of custom watersport earplugs in particular.

What Is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear is caused by water entering the ear canal – typically while swimming or surfing – which gets stuck and can infect the skin in the outer canal. You don’t have to be a regular swimmer to be at risk of swimmer’s ear, because even a little bit of water entering the ear canal can provide optimum conditions for bacteria to thrive.

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear:
• Painful ears, particularly when chewing
• Hearing loss
• Swelling in the ear canal

Treatment and Prevention

Swimmer’s ear can usually be treated with antibiotics, although there are some home remedies such as using a solution of vinegar and alcohol. However, this is another condition that can be prevented with a good, strong and reliable pair of custom swimming earplugs.