What are exostoses?

Exostoses, sometimes called surfer's ear, are bony overgrowths in the ear canal.  


What causes it?

Exostoses are most commonly found in people with a history of cold water exposure.  However, these bony overgrowths can also occur in people with no prior water history.  Multiple smooth, round, bony overgrowths are seen, and often in both ears.  Osteomas are a similar bony overgrowth, but usually only occur as a single growth.


Why is it a concern?

Many exostoses do not cause any symptoms, and do not require treatment.  Some, however, can growth large enough to cause hearing loss or recurrent infections.  


How is it treated?

Small exostoses often can be observed without intervention.  Other exostoses can trap skin debris in the canal and require routine cleaning in the ear doctor's office to prevent infections.  In some cases, large exostoses require surgery to remove the bony overgrowths, and reconstruct the ear canal.  These surgeries are usually done in the operating room under general anesthesia on an outpatient basis.

View of an ear canal blocked by multiple, large, exostoses.