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Swimming And Surfing Can Damage Your Hearing

New Zealand Audiological Society
20 January 2011

Swimming And Surfing Can Damage Your Hearing

The spotlight’s being placed on an unusual side effect of heading to the beach for a surf or a swim – you could get end up with earache or damage your hearing.

The New Zealand Audiological Society is drawing attention to ‘swimmer’s ear’ and ‘surfer’s ear’ to raise awareness of how to prevent them and what to do if you suffer from either this summer.

“Swimming and surfing is generally a quiet sport – but it can damage your hearing,” says
Peter Stubbing. “It’s the exposure to water that causes the problems.”

Swimmer’s ear or Otitis Externa is an infection of the ear canal when too much moisture irritates and breaks down the skin in the canal.

“Symptoms include earache, itching or redness in the canal, hearing problems and sometimes an unpleasant smelling discharge,” says Peter Stubbing.

Ear wax helps protect the canal and is the best prevention. Using swimming caps and ear plugs will also ensure the canal stays dry.

“If you do get an ear infection this summer, it’s best to stay out of the water until the infection clears. The immediate pain associated with Swimmer’s Ear earache can be reduced with a warm cloth placed on the ear and some paracetamol.”

Surfer’s ear or Exotoses are bony growths forming in the ear after exposure to cold water and wind.

“People with surfer’s ear can also get ear infection behind the bony growths, and the growths can grow over and block the ear canal and that means hearing loss.

“These conditions can affect a wide range of people including surf lifesavers, swimmers and in one case a dolphin researcher!” says Peter Stubbing.

“We are encouraging people to take care of their ears and hearing this summer. If anyone has concerns about an ear infection or their hearing they should visit their GP or audiologist.”

The New Zealand Audiological Society is the professional organisation representing qualified Audiologists and audiology in New Zealand.


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