To Swim or To Surf… Your Ears Want to Know!

To the beach or the pool, you ask? We say both, but take care of those ears!

There is a common misconception that Swimmer’s ear and Surfer’s ear are similar ailments, so we talked to Santa Cruz, CA family physician Hossein Hassani about dispelling that myth.

Swimmer’s ear, Hassani says, is an infection in the outer ear canal, most commonly caused when water is trapped in the external auditory canal, presenting a good medium for bacterial grow. This infection of the ear canal, otitis externa, is a common problem especially for children who spend a lot of time in the water.
Otitis Externa captured with the CellScope Oto

Otitis Externa captured with the CellScope Oto

Pain upon yawning or swallowing may indicate swimmer’s ear. If you gently wiggle the ear or press in front of the ear canal and the pain increases, there is a good chance there is an infection. Treat accordingly and avoid getting water in the ear until his treatment is done. To help prevent swimmer’s ear, after bathing or swimming, make sure to get all the water out of the ears by turning his head to each side,  dry gently with a towel, or use alcohol drops.
Hassani continues to explain that surfer’s ear, on the other hand, is excess cartilage growth in the external auditory canal due to prolonged exposure to cold water. Also referred to as exostosis or abnormal bone growth, it is most commonly seen in surfers who tend to spend hours in the ocean water. Irritation from cold wind and water exposure causes the bone surrounding the ear canal to develop new bony growth which constrict the ear canal. The ear canal is actually blocked by this condition, meaning that both water and wax can become trapped and give rise to infection.
Surfer's Ear taken with the CellScope Oto

Surfer’s Ear taken with the CellScope Oto

Surfer’s ear is a progressive condition, making it important to take preventative measures early, preferably whenever surfing. The condition is not limited to surfing and can occur in any activity with cold, wet, windy conditions (Kitesurfers, beware!).
Swimmers and surfers be warned, and take preventative measures and keep those ear canals as dry as possible. In case of an infection, consult your physician.

10 Things Your Ears Hate

Our ears are amazing organs. They allow us to experience the world in such a rich way, but often we are stumped when it comes to caring for them. Many of us make the mistake of subjecting them to things that our ears really hate. We thought we’d do your ears a favor and put together a list of the top 10 things that your ears hate, so you can avoid them if at-all possible. Continue reading

New OHNS Ear Tube Guidelines Mean Time for a Swim!

This week The Acadamy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery released new clinical guidelines for use and car of tympanostomy tubes in children.  According to the OHNS, by age 3, nearly 1 in 15 children in the US have tubes. The surgical placement in the eardrum to treat persistent middle ear fluid (effusion), frequent ear infections, or ear infections that persist despite antibiotic therapy is the leading reason outpatient surgery for the country’s younger population (ages 1 – 12).

The July 1st guidelines say that children with repeated ear infections don’t always need tubes.  They say tubes should not be considered in children who have had fluid in the ears for less than three months. Often fluid build-up the persists after an ear infection can go away on it’s own. The CellScope team’s intepretation of that? They will instead need great follow up and monitoring. Perhaps with a smartphone otoscope.

Tympanostomy Tube Placement Image

Tube placement captured by the CellScope Oto

CellScope Oto Tube Placement

Tympanostomy Tube Placement captured with the CellScope Oto

And kids who already have tubes? Well, the guidelines say they don’t need to avoid getting water in their ears. Swimming and splashing are fair game!