Exostoses are bony bumps that grow within the ear canal due to exposure to cold water or air.  They grow slowly and when they reach a large size they start blocking the ear canal causing water and debris to be trapped. This causes repeated ear canal blockage with hearing loss and ear infections. They are common in swimmers and surfers in New Zealand, so are often called surfers ears.

The exostectomy operation removes the exostoses and widens the ear canal. It can be done by the endaural approach (an incision at the top of the ear canal entrance) or postauricular approach (from behind the ear).

After surgery

 The head bandage will be removed the next day, and the ear canal packing removed in clinic in 2 to 3 weeks.  Most patients take at least one week off work. Do not drive or operate machinery within 24 hours of an anaesthetic.

 You will be given a prescription for pain relief before you leave the hospital. It can be sore to chew. It will be uncomfortable for the first 1 to 2 weeks then usually subsides.

The outside of the ear may feel numb for a while. Your ear will feel blocked and the hearing will be down for some weeks. You may hear or feel some popping and crackling in the ear, as well as tinnitus.

Your ear canal will discharge blood stained fluid and some of the pieces of ear canal packing may fall out. Place a small rolled ball of cotton wool at the entrance to the canal to collect this and change as required. Do not put anything into the ear canal.

Do not get water down the ear canal. You can wash your hair after 2 days and to prevent water entering the ear canal, roll a small ball of cotton wool in Vaseline and place at the entrance to the ear canal with a cup over your ear. If you have had an incision behind the ear it may be covered with steristrips and you can pat this area behind the ear or use a hairdryer to gently dry it but do not rub it for 2 weeks. The steristrips will start to lift off after 1 to 2 weeks and can then be removed.

Once the ear canal packing is removed 2 to 3 weeks after the operation there will be frequent follow up appointments for 6 to 8 weeks to ensure that no infection or scarring occurs and there should be no water into the ear until it is fully healed.

If you have any concerns after your procedure, please contact the following:

  • Your Surgeon
  • Auckland ENT Group on 09 522 2226
  • Your Family Doctor / GP
  • After hours – 24 Hour Medical Centre or Emergency Department

In case of an emergency – dial 111 for an ambulance.

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