Surfer's ear is the common name for an exostosis or abnormal bone growth within the ear canal and affects many. Surfer's ear is not the same as swimmer's ear, although infection can result as a side effect. Irritation from cold wind and water exposure causes the bone surrounding the ear canal to develop lumps of new bony growth which constrict the ear canal.
Where the ear canal is actually blocked by this condition, water and wax can become trapped and give rise to infection. The condition is so named due to its prevalence among cold water surfers. The condition is progressive, making it important to take preventative measures early - ear plugs, wetsuit hood, swim cap or diving helmets preferably whenever surfing. The condition is not limited to surfing and can occur in any activity with cold, wet, windy conditions.
Symptoms include decreased hearing or hearing loss, increased prevalence of ear infections, and difficulty evacuating debris or water from the ear causing a plugging sensation.
Treatment is by surgery to remove the obstructing ear canal bone is usually performed under general anesthesia. Most ear surgeons use a drill to remove the bone and may approach the area directly via the ear canal or by making an incision behind the ear and dissecting the ear forward.