100% of WSL Surfers tested have Surfers Ear

Last week, we introduced SurfEars JUNIOR; revolutionary new ear plugs for children designed to keep their ears safe while allowing them to enjoy their time in the ocean. 

This week, it's the harsh reality of spending copious amounts of time in the ocean. A small group of WSL surfers were analysed by Dr. Vini Simas and the Water Base Research Unit at Bond University. Simas and his team found that 100% of WSL surfers tested suffer from some level of surfers ear, a growing issue among surfers all over the globe - an issue that no surfer wants to experience. 

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Read more on the study and surfers ear below:

What exactly is exostoses and how many surfers suffer from it?

Exostoses of the external auditory canal is recognized as a potentially serious complication of surfing, and is commonly referred to as surfers ear. This condition is diagnosed by identifying an abnormal bone growth that arises from the temporal bone and protrudes into the ear canal. 

The prevalence of this type of injury in surfers, both professional and recreational ranges from 38 to 80 percent. However, before this study was tested, the prevalence of surfers ear in elite athletes competing in the World Surf League had not been investigated.  

The Results

The Water Base Research Unit - comprised of Dr. Vini Simas, Associate Professor Mike Climstein, Professor Wayne Hing and Associate Professor Rodney Pope - conducted a survey of 14 highly ranked professional surfers for a paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia; 9 males (mean age 34.5 years) and 5 females (mean age 25.4 years). The mean surfing exposure period was 27.6 years for men and 15.4 years for women. Eleven surfers (78.5%) were aware of the term 'surfers ear'.

Auditory exostoses was found in 100% of elite athletes in at least one ear, and 92.9% had exostoses in both ears. A severe grade (grade 3) was observed in 50% of the participants. Severity was found to be worse in the right ear in most of the surfers, as shown in the figure below. 

Do the math, and surfers ear didn't miss a single tested surfer.  The likelihood of surfers ear drops slightly in recreational surfers, but it's easy to conclude that as wetsuit technology continues to improve and people can surf in cold water for longer periods of time, ear infections and cases of surfers ear will continue to rise, leading to an increase in the need for medical attention and ear surgery to repair damage.

Surprisingly, only one surfer had received the diagnosis of auditory exostoses, even though 57% of the athletes had seen a doctor due to an ear complaint. Another important finding is related to the use of ear protection, as none of the surfers reported previously using protective equipment, which could have potentially prevented the existence of surfers ear. 

Although these findings are based on a small sample size, the findings suggest that education is required for surfers of all ages so we can help prevent the potentially serious issue of surfers ear. 

Surfing legend Tom Carroll, a lifelong battler of exostoses, has worked closely with SurfEars product development team, and after undergoing long overdue surgery on both ears couldn't be happier with the latest version of SurfEars. 

My doctor took one look at the product and his face lit up with joy!” says two-time world champion Carroll. “Finally something he can issue to his never ending surgical roster of surfing patients, specifically designed to ensure the ability to hear and engage with others, while still protecting us from this extraordinary, natural protection response from our bodies. Thank you!

 Tom Carroll, 2X world champion and SurfEars advocate

The ocean gives and the ocean takes. Regardless of what it takes, surfers traditionally have not been a worry-some group. We'll risk being dragged across the reef for a few brief moments of liquid bliss. But hell if we didn't pay attention to the growing issues in our sport. 

The issue of surfers ear has not yet been proven to be preventable. Sure you could avoid it by staying away from the ocean, but we wouldn't recommend that..


Your best bet to prevent future ear issues like surfers ear is to pop in a pair of ear plugs before every session. Hang them in your car, tie them to your wetsuit; toss them in your boardies; whatever it takes to continuously use them. 

Keep your hearing sharp and your surfing sharper, with SurfEars and SurfEars JUNIOR. Spend more time in the water doing what you love, and less time battling ear issues. 


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