As kiteboarders we often expose ourselves to the elements, especially now winter is coming and the water is getting colder. When the wind is strong the chill can be even worse, the constant dunking into cold water leaves your ears open to near-constant abuse. You may have seen some kiters wearing earplugs on the beach, and perhaps wondered why they might be doing so. Perhaps you wear earplugs already, maybe you are thinking about it, the short answer is that if you kitesurf in colder temperatures, you should definitely be protecting your ears. Here’s why…

Surfer’s Ear

Surfer’s ear is extra bone formed as lumps that grow in the ear canal. The cause of it is exposure to cold water and wind, especially the combination of the two as the wind creates a chill factor when your ears are wet. The new bone growth, also called exostosis, is believed to be the body’s defence mechanism to protect the eardrum. The problem is that the exostosis doesn’t go away afterwards. Instead, it continues to grow.

The first symptom of Surfer’s ear is often that water gets stuck in your ears because of the bone lumps, which can lead to recurring ear infections.

If bone growth becomes severe, the only way to fix it is by surgery, where the bone lumps get drilled or chiselled out. The drilling method, which is the most common, includes cutting the ear open and flip it forward to give access for drilling. After surgery, the ears get stitched back. It’s definitely not a pleasant procedure to go through, and it will keep you out of the water for quite some time.

Ear infections

Ear infections are often a side effect from surfer’s ear as water more easily get trapped inside the ears, which create a breeding ground for bacteria to cause inflammation, irritation, and infection. Symptoms can include pain, redness and swelling of the ear canal as well as an itchy feeling inside the ear. Pain when tugging the earlobe, or when chewing food, is also a common symptom.

Ruptured Eardrum

Crashing into the water surface with your ear first, there is a high risk of rapturing your eardrum from the pressure of the impact. A raptured (or perforated) eardrum can be very painful. An ear infection can also cause eardrum rupture.
The eardrum usually heals by itself within a couple of months, but it’s important not to get any water in your ears during this period.

Wind Noise

Riding in high wind conditions can be a noisy affair, and it can actually contribute to hearing loss over time.

A study made with cyclists showed that they experienced a noise of 85 dBA, which is enough to cause noise-induced hearing loss over time when travelling at 15mph (24 km/h or 13 knots). This makes it highly relevant also for kitesurfers, riding at high speed in windy conditions. The higher the wind- and riding speeds, the noise increases.

The best way to protect your ears from all of the above issues is to wear earplugs. Here at the magazine we’ve all been wearing SurfEars for some time, they keep water out, but let sound in, improving your balance but also meaning you can still hear things on the beach and the water. As kiters who communicate with each other, that is really important!

What sets SurfEars apart from most other earplugs is that they let enough sound through to not affect your hearing or balance, but effectively reduces a large portion of the high pitch wind noise, giving you a more comfortable and safer ride.

SurfEars come with changeable parts in different sizes, allowing you to customise them to fit your ears perfectly.

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By Rou Chater
Rou has been kiting since the sports inception and has been working as an editor and tester for magazines since 2004. He started IKSURFMAG with his brother in 2006 and has tested hundreds of different kites and travelled all over the world to kitesurf. He's a walking encyclopedia of all things kite and is just as passionate about the sport today as he was when he first started!
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