Surfers Ear: What is it and how to prevent it

Surfers ear (also known as swimmers ear) is something you may have heard of in the world of water sports, you may even know a sufferer or been a victim to it yourself. For many young surfers, there is a big warning from a lot of veterans out there to look after your ears or suffer the consequences later in life.

As we would like to encourage everyone to not be put off heading out into the sea to do what they love, we thought it would be a good idea to chat to expert on the matter and friend of Coast to Coast John Allen. 

John is a fully qualified Audiologist and runs The Hearing Health Clinic alongside working for the NHS. He has a son who is part of the Belhaven Surf Club and is keen for surfers to understand how to minimise damage to their ears and hearing. We thought who best to chat with and hopefully help a few of you budding surfers out there with an exciting new product already creating a lot of buzz in the local water sports community. 

Photograph: John and son Sam heading for a surf at Belhaven (Photo credit: Kate Allen)

Q: What is surfers ear and how does it happen?

John: Surfer’s ear, also known as external auditory exostosis, develops when repeated exposure to cold water and wind stimulates the ear canal to produce extra bone. This can result in the formation of bony growths, leading to a narrowed or blocked ear canal. The condition is commonly seen in surfers and cold-water swimmers.

Q: What are some of the risks associated with surfers ear?

John: The impact of surfer’s ear includes an elevated risk of ear infections due to water and debris becoming trapped in the narrowed canal. Hearing loss may also occur as the growths obstruct sound waves passing through the ear canal. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove the excess bone and restore normal ear function. Regular preventive measures, such as wearing earplugs, are recommended for those at risk.

Q: What are some of the things surfers can do to protect their ears?

John: The best protection available to prevent surfer’s ear is by using a set of customised ear plugs. They are made using medical grade silicone, fill the whole ear and give an excellent seal to ensure maximum protection against any water getting into the ear canal. There is an optional acoustic filter to allow you to hear better when in the water.

The current cost for a pair of custom fitted, floatable surf plugs is £90.00. With an additional acoustic filter to allow you to hear better in the water when wearing them is £130.00.  These prices include the ear impression fee, the choice of various colours, a cord that is attached to the plugs and a carry case. 

Photograph: What is included in your purchase

Q: What can people out there do if they are interested in getting their hands on this kind of product?

John: If you would like to order a pair of customised surf plugs, we are running a session on Saturday, December 16th from 2 – 4pm.  An appointment to have impressions taken of your ears will take approximately 20 minutes. To book in or to arrange an alternative appointment at one of their clinics please contact me at The Hearing Health Clinic on 07719 955714 or email

Thank you John for your time and if you out there have any further questions please get in touch with Coast to Coast and we would be happy to help you out.

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