Surfing Montauk with Debra Rose

Montauk Surfing – What? Protect Those Ears

Debra Rose

Using ear plugs when surfing is as glamorous as putting on your 5mm wetsuit, but it’s an inevitable part of a surfers life. Or at least, it should be. After managing all of the gear for your board, body, car and post-surf dismantling, ear plugs are commonly viewed as an afterthought.

Montauk surfers need to be especially aware of the risks; cold water exposure and frequent cool winds increase the chances of developing Surfer’s Ear. In fact, we are six times more likely than warm water surfers to have complications with our ears. The condition can inflict mild to major damage to your ear, and at the very least simply drive you crazy with water stuck in your ear for days. In some surf spots you are increasing your chances of ear inflections if you are not protecting your ears, especially in places like LA or less developed locations with more polluted waters. Severe Surfer’s Ear means the bones around your ear canal begin to cultivate deformed boney growths called exostoses, which also traps water once it has entered your ear canal. Imagine never being able to free the water sloshing around your ear canal after a session? Maddening!

The suggestion to wear ear plugs is often viewed as optional, justified by forgetting to bring them, losing them in a session and not replacing them, avoiding cold surf spots or just finding them annoying. If you are in the water and lose them, you are not going to end your session in order to protect your ears. When you have signs of Surfers Ear and the condition continues to develop unchecked, your hearing outside of the water will be impacted as well.

Lumps of bones growing in your ears is more alarming than the excuses to not wear them.
If the multiple bony growths are extreme, small chisels or a drill (medical carpentry) can be used to dismantle the problem. After a month of healing, wearing ear plugs in the shower and staying out of the water, you must wear ear plugs when surfing or risk the return of the problem. If this does not sound joyful to you, there is a preventative solution.

Custom-made ear plugs may sound extravagant, but then again so are your ears and your hearing. Would you trade hearing loss for the time, energy and expense to have ear plugs that fit snuggly in your ears, reducing the chance of damage? Not only will they fit your specific ears, the better the fit the less chance of losing them. The best ones will completely seal your ear canal when surfing.

Now that we are rolling into winter, make an appointment with your audiologist to evaluate your ears and make custom plugs for you. The process is quick, and soon you will have material molded into your ear that will prevent cold water and air from entering your ear. You will have muffled hearing but will still be able to hear people near you. Another bonus is having the ear plugs custom fit for sleeping on planes, loud music at concerts, and for motor sports or activities in which you are surrounded by blaring sounds. Plus, they float.

An appointment and trip to the Audiologist may not sound thrilling, but your ears and long-term ability to surf, hear your friends and prevent ear infections will be.