Objective: To establish surfers' knowledge of the preventability of external auditory canal exostoses ('surfer's ear'), and their use of water precautions.
Method: Survey of surfers conducted between December 2009 and March 2010 at beaches in Cornwall, UK.
Results: Ninety-two surfers were included (78 males and 14 females, mean age 27 years, standard deviation 7.9 years). Participants were grouped according to their awareness of the preventability of surfer's ear (55 aware, 37 unaware). These groups were comparable in age, surfing history and gender mix (p > 0.05). Surfers aware of the preventability of exostoses (66 per cent) were more likely to use water precautions than those who were not (38 per cent) (p < 0.01). Two surfers used water precautions regularly and 48 used them occasionally. Sixty-one of the 76 surfers who did not use water precautions (ear plugs) suggested they would consider doing so in the future.
Conclusion: Awareness of the preventability of surfer's ear was associated with greater use of water precautions. Further research should explore reasons for the low uptake of such precautions. Most surfers not already using ear plugs would consider doing so in the future.