Ear bones growing at high pace in Ireland

Shore shots, an Irish surf festival is held yearly in Sligo on the north east part of the country. It’s a weekend packed with video screenings, seminars and on-stage interviews mixed up with music and art. Also, a great excuse to visit the region that probably get more good surf than anywhere else in Ireland.

The weekend kicked off Friday night with a poster exhibition and book release by Barry Britton, an incredible artist and surfing icon from Bundoran just north of Sligo. Saturday was the main day of the event and the Irish film competition being the absolute highlight. An overly packed screening room with an engaged audience cheering and “yew-ing” when they saw something they liked. There is no question that there are a lot of talented and brave surfers in Ireland and the effort they had put into the video clips were impressive to say the least.

Luckily some fun waves were breaking before the event started for the day. Here at Strandhill Beach.

In a relatively cold and wind thorn place like Ireland, we figured that most likely one and another surfer would suffer from Surfer’s ear, which we are all about to prevent. We took the opportunity to invite a doctor to the festival in order to find out.

During a three-hour session we offered free ear examinations to the visitors and made a little study at the same time. The participants got to fill out a survey whereby the doctor checked out their ear canals looking for exostosis. The participants were surfers of all ages – some were pro surfers, some happy enthusiasts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Katie McAnena, doctor but also prominent windsurfer and surfer who has conquered big waves like Peahi on Maui. Here she is examining ears at the Shore Shots festival.

A total of 27 people took part the study and 70% of the participants had some degree of surfer’s ear in at least one ear. 19 of those had surfed for more than 10 years, for which the corresponding number was 84%. Nine of these had the highest grade of closure in at least one ear, meaning two thirds or more of the ear canal is closed. Ten people had surfed for at least 20 years. Only one of them was spared from exostosis, and for six of them the highest grade was observed.

Two years ago, a similar study was made by Dr. Vini Simas and the Water Base Research Unit at Bond University with a small group of WSL Championship Tour surfers. Simas and his team found that all 14 surfers who took part in their study had developed surfer’s ear in at least one ear, and all except one in both ears.  Again, the highest grade of closure was observed for 50 % of the participants.

We guess that all surfers at Shore Shots festival will agree with us that time spent in the ocean adds richness to our lives. But spending time in it comes with some side effects, especially in colder climates. Our little study as well as the one made by Dr. Vini Simas show that surfer’s ear is a common problem for many surfers. There is no way to foresee how bad you will be affected, but most certainly you will develop exostosis over time, unless you do something about it. As we know prevention is better than cure and there is never a bad time to start wearing ear plugs.

Good vibes and a lot of fun at the shore shots festival 2018: