Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Now 'ear this
Here's a post from my good buddy Phil - you have been warned!!
Aright fellow water enthusiasts I thought this might be of use to you all. Having been an active windsurfer and scuba diver for over 2 decades I have enjoyed windsurfing and diving all over the world and have been lucky enough to have sailed and dived in some of the best locations, both in warm water and cold water. Over the years due to spending time in the water we have all probably picked up the old dreaded “ear infection” and no doubt have been to the doc to get some antibiotics and been told to stay out of the water for a week… no drama !Well personally I have had my fair share of ear related ailments; ranging from ear infections / swimmers ear (different to surfers ear) / blockages due to water being trapped when face slamming into the water learning to forward loop!
So, on the last visit to my local GP to get some antibiotics for yet another ear infection he was looking in my right ear and said something along the lines of “Oh Mr. Warry, I think I should refer you to the ENT at the specialist medical center as you have some bony growths in your ear canal…’’, on further discussion with him he basically explained what the problem was and why my ears were in the state they were in.So what had caused this – SURFERS EAR!!
Surfer's ear is a condition of the ear canal where the bony lining under the skin develops a number of lumps (exostoses) that grow into the tube. This can eventually cause a partial or even complete blockage of the ear canal. In my case 90% blockage! Great! I had heard of this problem before and actually knew a few surfers on the Island who had suffered from this and who had the dreaded Operation to get them fixed. Thinking about the amount of ear infections I have had and the loss of hearing of late, especially to my right ear, I now started to fear the worst. Some of you may be thinking yeh so what!! Well read on. If the ear canal is narrowed, water and debris can get trapped behind the narrowing causing a very painful infection, which is difficult to treat. In very advanced cases it can narrow enough to cause deafness. In the early stages infections can be easily treated by a trip to the doc, some antibiotics and general cleaning and on going care of the ear. The problem is that once these lumps (exostoses) start to grow they don’t go away and after a period of time they get worse. This happens gradually and it is a fairly slow process, which is why a lot of people don’t think there’s any problem, normally until the exostoses are advanced. So what’s the cure? This is the fun bit. “Surgery” Basically there is an operation you can have to remove the bony lumps. The process is relatively straight-forward. Under general anesthetic the surgeon cuts the back of your ear and then drills out the bony lumps which are in your ear tube. You don’t feel a thing because you are asleep and the operation takes approx 2/3 hours.And then a long healing process of 3 months out the water "Bummer"
Prevention is better than cure - Surfer's ear is six times as common in cold water surfers than warm water surfers. The longer you surf the more likely you are to get it. It is thought that it is caused by cold water and air getting into the ears repeatedly over a long period of time. So if you can keep your ears warm and dry when surfing / windsurfing/diving there is a good chance it won’t get nearly as bad. The usual way to do this is to wear earplugs but a hood in the winter will obviously provide good protection too.
Ear plugs Manufactured / custom made ear plugs can be used to quite good effect, basically you want something tailored to the ear that does not interfere too much with hearing and balance. Your ears will need to be measured to get the correct size. (or they tend to rub after a period of time)Silicone wax moldable putty plugs are ok, but reduce hearing and can impair balance. They are available at most chemists. Blutac or White tack is good and used by a lot of watermen and women which has the advantage of being a bit sticky and less likely to fall out. Blutac is claimed by some experienced users to be the best for a completely dry seal if used correctly.
Swimmers Ear Explained...Swimmer's Ear is an inflammation and infection of the ear canal caused by prolonged moisture and is commoner in the tropics, but is not caused by the bony growths, so this is different to exsotoses / surfers ear.
Is there any good news? Many surfers have mild exostoses which cause no trouble. And if you protect yourself now you can stop it happening or getting worse. So be warned