Residents of landlocked Las Vegas, Nevada might think a condition called surfer’s ear is the least of their worries. While it’s reasonable to assume that you have better odds of having a slot machine fall on your foot and spraining your toe, the truth is you are not immune from this painful affliction. When the temperature climbs into the triple digits, many of us turn to water activities to find relief…and that’s where the trouble begins.
What is Surfer’s Ear and How Can it Affect Me?
Despite the name, surfer’s ear can affect you even if you’ve never caught a gnarly wave or even glimpsed the ocean in your life. Known medically as exostosis, surfer’s ear is an inflammation of the bone in the ear canal that results from exposure to cold water. This leads to thickening of the bones and narrowing of the ear canal. Left untreated, significant growth may cause hearing loss over time. Swimmers and surfers are the most common patients, though the condition can affect anybody who frequents the water.
The first sign of surfer’s ear is the occurrence of frequent ear infections, accompanied by a plugged-up feeling. Over time, a complete blockage of the ear canal may take place, leading to hearing loss.
Treatment usually involves canalplasty, an outpatient surgical procedure in which the excess bone growth is chiseled away. Since this type of hearing loss is conductive in nature, the prognosis for a full recovery is good.
In order to prevent surfer’s ear, avoid swimming in extremely cold water, especially during windy conditions. Wearing swim plugs or a swimming cap can also help.
Other Summertime Health Hazards
Surfer’s ear isn’t the only summertime hazard to worry about. Other potential problems include:
- Swimmer’s ear. This similar condition is caused by exposure to water containing high bacterial levels. It can also result in painful ear infections and eventual hearing loss.
- Allergies. Summer allergies caused by pollen from grasses, trees, and weeds can lead to cold-like symptoms such as runny or stuffy nose; itchy, watery eyes; postnasal drip; and breathing difficulties.
- Sore or irritated throat. Summer activities and irritants such as shouting during sporting events, smoking, consuming alcohol, and overexposure to air conditioning can cause the throat to become sore or irritated.
Want to enjoy summer without worrying about losing your hearing, suffering through allergies, or experiencing a scratchy throat? Your Las Vegas ear, nose and throat specialist has plenty of tips to keep you safe and healthy throughout the season.