Diagnostic Hearing Tests
Glossary of Terms

Excision of Exostosis


What is Excision of Exostosis?

Exostosis is the overgrowth of the bony part of the external ear canal. It is also called Surfer's Ear.

The ear canal itself is a canal similar to a tunnel which comes to a dead end. The dead end is the eardrum. The canal itself in the outer part is cartilage and soft tissue, whereas that deeper in is bony with a layer of skin over the bone. The bone grows inwards to the ear canal and therefore make the ear canal itself smaller in diameter. The ear canal itself does not circumferentially narrow evenly, but the bony growths are like mountains from the inside of the ear canal. It is thought that they occur more commonly in people who have swum in cold water early on in their life.

Surfer's Ear

Some think it may be a protective mechanism to keep cold water away from the eardrum. In any case, the end result is a narrowing of the ear canal. This becomes problematic when water becomes entrapped between these mountainous areas and the retained water becomes infected and ear infections of the outer ear canal occur.

These can become extremely troublesome to some patients, which is one reason to have these ear canal exostosis removed. The problems of these exostosis is that the normal wax, which is produced by the skin of the ear canal, cannot self-clean in the usual way and therefore often patients have retention of wax and hearing loss due to the wax occlusion. The exostosis can become so enlarged that they can totally block the external ear canal and the eardrum cannot be seen. These are some of the indications to remove exostosis.



The Operation

The operation is done under a general anaesthetic (patient asleep), either as a day case or an overnight stay. The approach is by an excision made behind the ear or in front. The bone of the ear canal is then drilled out by a dental drill from the outside inwards towards the drum.

Once these bony mountains are removed, and the ear canal is now open to natural size again, the ear is packed with some antibiotic impregnated gauze to allow it to heal without the exostosis reforming the healing phase. It is important, therefore, that the packing remains in the external ear canal for up to a couple of weeks and is removed by the surgeon.



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