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Sound to Sea I News Features

Surf’s up...but not for cold, wet, unprotected ears Sophia Farrow Staff Writer One of the most popular Outer Banks sports endangers its participants with the possibility of hearing loss. Surfing or swimming in cold water consistently can cause exostosis of the ear. Exostosis has become more prevalent in the Outer Banks over the past few years, due to the cold water that surfers frequently surf in. Exostosis of the ear is the thickening of the bone surrounding the ear canal. This is caused by the ear canal repeatedly being exposed to cold water or cold wind. The thickening restricts the ability of sound to reach the eardrum, causing hearing loss; sometimes to the point of total deafness. “Exostosis of the ear canal or ‘surfer’s ear’ are benign bony growths in the ear canal associated with exposure to cold water and wind. Water colder than 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit has been shown to stimulate this abnormal bone growth,” local audiologist Krista Follmer said. “These growths can make people more prone to ear infections and wax

build-up. They can cause hearing loss if they grow large and prevent sound from traveling to the inner ear.” The surfing season can start as early as the end of the winter season and cold water temperatures prevail throughout the spring season. With this being the case, many surfers are exposed to cold water temperatures and should wear ear protection. “This formation of bone on top of preexisting bone is essentially a defense mechanism the body is attempting to protect the more sensitive eardrum by constricting the size of the ear canal. Theoretically, narrowing the ear canal will decrease the likelihood of the eardrum being exposed to the elements,” said registered nurse Jodi Wyant. Once exostosis of the ear has reached a certain point surgery may be needed to once again hear normally. There are two different types of surgical procedures to remove the bone growth inside the ear. The first procedure calls for an incision to be made behind the ear and then a surgical drill is used to clear away the bone growth. The second procedure does not

use an incision behind the ear, but the drill is instead used to remove the growth through the ear canal. “Once exostosis of the ear is present and narrowing of the ear canal has occurred, there is no reversal except through an invasive surgical procedure that requires several post-surgical weeks of healing,” Wyant said. The surgery for exostosis repairs the ear canal to nearly 100 percent pre-exostosis. However, it does not prevent exostosis recurrence. As long as precautions against cold waters and winds are taken then exostosis should not reoccur. Multiple companies now sell advanced ear plugs for surfers. The company SurfEars designed a pair of state of the art, comfortable surfing and swimming ear plugs in 2011 that allow a person to hear but prevent water from getting in their ear. “It is important to protect ears from cold water and options include non-custom ear plugs and custom ear plugs. Inexpensive wax ear plugs can be purchased at any drug store but have some safety considerations as they will also block sound,” Follmer said.


“You can find non-custom molds that allow sound to enter through the mold while preventing water from entering the ear canal at some local surf stores. The fit and effectiveness of non-custom molds depends on the shape of an individual’s ear canal.” The neoprene hoods of wetsuits also work to block cold water from reaching the inner ear. The small amount of water that is trapped by the wetsuits warms near the ear and also prevents wind from reaching the ear. “In the cold water I do not wear earplugs but I do where the wetsuit hood. The wetsuit hood is uncomfortable at first but I get use to it pretty quick, sometimes when I fall it will fill up with water and that kind of sucks,” said senior Tommy Tillett. “I wear it because it keeps me super warm in the wind and when I duck dive or fall.” If exostosis of the ear is diagnosed early, wearing earplugs while in cold water can prevent it from worsening. Taking cautionary steps such as wearing wetsuits and earplugs when in cold water will lead to healthy ears and no surgery.

Unusual fears: Lighthouses, spiders, ice skating, oh my! Chloe Griffiths Staff Writer Everyone has that one thing that makes their knees a little weak or their skin crawl. Something that makes their mouths let out an ear piercing sheik and eyes get huge. Fear of spiders, clowns and heights are a some of the more common fears but there can be some fears that are unusual. Oftentimes, these fears stem from unpleasant experiences, vivid nightmares or a horror movie gone wrong. “I am mostly afraid of spiders because they can be anywhere like in your room and you won’t even know they’re there. Also, they could be poisonous and you won’t even realize it,” junior Ryan Braswell said. “It all started when I was little and I saw a black widow in my room and it freaked me out. Since then, I have been scared of spiders.” These fears can also result from watching a parent experience the same fear. These fears can be “inherited” or shared within a family and cause the fear to be heightened. For English teacher Kassie Mount, the fear of birds has followed her throughout life. “My mom has always had a fear of birds so

I just got the idea that they were dangerous,” Mount said. “They are just to many sharp objects on them and if they fly around me I have a little panic attack and cry, and when I was little my babysitter has some vicious chickens. Also in college I was chased by a goose around a pond.” However, in the world there are people who are scared of the most unusual things like, bubbles, rain, trees and even falling asleep. “I fear ice skating,” senior Colby Gold said. “I’m just not with it. It’s dangerous, you have two blades that you have to balance on and if you fall somebody can easily run over you and hurt you because the blades are basically knives.” Fears can be defined as an exaggerated reaction to a particular object or living thing. Witnessing or hearing about a tragedy can cause fears to form, especially if the individual feels out of control. For instance, hearing about a shark attack may trigger a fear of the ocean. “I’ve been scared of the ocean for a about two years now after that one day where I got caught in a rip current and being saved about 30 minutes later by a lifeguard,” freshman Kaitlyn Midgett said. Not all fears stem from traumatic

artwork by Taylor Cahoon

experiences. Sophomore Blake Gard’s “crippling fear” of lighthouses came from a sudden realization of a lighthouse’s shortcomings. “It’s everything about them. I’m okay in planes and on other tall buildings, it’s just lighthouses. I guess it’s because you can see through the floor and it’s enclosed so you can’t get out,” he said. “Lighthouses aren’t kept up to the same high standards of other structures.” Whether it be the occasional insect or a winter activity, weird fears will cause a scare.

Profile for Sound to Sea

Issue 4 - May 2018  

Issue 4 - May 2018