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Ear conditions

Exostosis (surfer’s ear)

Exostosis of the ear canal is where the bone of the ear canal grows abnormally, forming bony growths called exostoses. It usually affects people who swim or surf a lot in cold water – that’s why it’s sometimes called surfer’s ear.


The bony swellings (exostoses) grow slowly over time, causing the ear canal to become narrower.

With continued exposure to cold wind and water, exostosis will get worse. If the swellings narrow your ear canal too much, wax and water can get trapped in the ear, which can cause infection and hearing loss.

Avoiding exposure to cold water by not swimming, or by using earplugs while swimming, might prevent the swellings from growing bigger.


If the abnormal bony growths are large or causing problems, you may be offered surgery to remove them. Depending on the condition of your ear canal and the type of surgery you have, it might take several weeks for your ear canal to heal.