Increasing knowledge, skills and expertise in Otorhinolaryngology, Head & Neck patient care.


Dr Alon Taylor

Unaccredited ENT registrar, Prince of Wales Hospital

TOPIC : From Wipeout to Drill out – the history of management of exostoses and its impact on the Australian surfing community

Dr. Alon Taylor is an Unaccredited ENT registrar at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney. He graduated from the University of Sydney in 2017 and has undergraduate degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Physics.

Background: Exostoses are the most common bony masses found in the external auditory canal. Paleoanthropological studies show an exceptionally high rate of exostoses in the temporal bones of Neandertals and other members of the Homo genus, offering insight into humankind’s aquatic past. French physician, Francois Boissier de Sauvages, likely described the first patient with exostoses in 1763, the extraction of which resulted in the patient’s death. Management of symptomatic exostoses through to the mid-19th century involved the application of a myriad of treatments including topical mercury and leeching of the meatus, galvanic electrolysis, bougie dilatation as well as filing and forceps removal. With the advent of the dental drilling engine and refinement of surgical chisels and trephines, otologists of the late 19th century transitioned from avoidance of surgery to eager removal. These advancements have paved the way for modern otologists to develop safer and more precise approaches. External canal exostoses and the sport of surfing were first wedded in the literature in 1977 when the phrase ‘surfer’s ears’ was first coined, and the well-known difficulty of keeping surfers out of the water for long lengths of time in the postoperative period was first noted. Surfer’s ear is a perpetual nuisance to cold water surfers, particularly those on Victoria’s Surf Coast, the mecca of cold water surfing in Australia and home to the world famous Bells Beach. With the popularity of surfing in this country, Australian otologists have had unrivalled and extensive surgical experience in managing this condition.

Aims and methods: Through review of historical literature and personal insights from pioneering members of Australia’s otology and surfing community, this presentation catalogues the history of the management of external canal exostoses and its impact on the Australian surfing community.