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This is strictly and totally informational..i have no stock or interests in Docs ear plugs or any shops that sell them! Two years ago I was windowshaded in a keeper hole on the Poudre. Before finally working my way out, I was windowshaded numerous times and once i felt the water slam into the side of my head as if someone had taken their palm and slapped my ear. When I finally made it to an eddy i realized that my ear was ringing extremely loud. The ringing never went away and after a visit to the Ear Nose Throat doctor i was informed that i had damaged the inner ear (the ear drum never broke) and I would most likely be deaf in the ear for the rest of my life. I eventually had surgery and learned after the surgery that the surgeon had to remove a large cold water tumor that had also grown in my ear prior to exploring the inner ear. fortunately, the tumor was not cancer, but the trauma to the inner ear was irreversable. I now live with Tenitus which is extremely loud ringing in the ear 24/7 non stop. There is very little that can be done for tinitus and my purpose in this writing is to recomended to all kayakers (beginners or Experienced) to spend the $10.00 for the ear plugs and continue to enjoy life-mine has been extremely degraded since the loss of hearing. Since the Mtn Shop closed last year I have not been able to find them, today i stopped by the drum shop on Linden street and found they have them in stock. The ear plugs are also supposed to help prevent the cold water tumors! If this writing helps to save one persons hearing, then i feel it was well worth sharing.....have a great and safe spring paddling season...it's look'in to be a good one....cheers
 

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Thanks for the post! I think I met you on the poudre last summer. I've since gotten a pair of those ear plugs because of your advice. They're pretty awesome. They dont degrade the amount you can hear very much while you're wearing them. Thanks so much for your input!
 

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I've been bouncin' the idea around and I think I'll finally get off me arse and get a pair this season.
 

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cold water tumors

Hey, thanks for the post. I've heard about cold water tumors and how it's a good idea to have ear plugs if you're in it a lot, but i don't know how it develops. Is it just cold water, or if you spend too much time upside down in any water? Also, how cold is the water for this to have a good chance of happening? just curious.
 

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custom plugs

Another alternative to Doc's are custom ear plugs you can get through an ENT dr. They're a little pricey, around 100$, but they definitely work a lot better than Docs. I don't get a drop of water in my ears. I had to have surgery on both ears two years ago for exostosis (bone growths in the outer ear canal), and recovery wasn't fun in the least. (2 months per ear where I couldn't get my ears wet -i.e. no kayaking) It sucked and I also have slight tinitus from the surgery. Before I was diagnosed with exostosis, I used doc's for a few years and never could get a true fit, and got water lodged in my ears. Maybe this was just a rare case, and I am not trying to bash docs, I am just letting everyone know of other alternatives for ear protection. My main point is, if you are a beginning paddler, or even a seasoned boater, please do yourself a favor and protect yourself with either Docs plugs or splurge and get the custom plugs. Especially if you boat in cold water regions like the Rockies.
 

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two of my old friends in the SE have it (exotosis) and while they paddle year round, the water there is much warmer than anything here for the most part. I wear doc's religiously when playboating, but have taken to not wearing them creeking because i like to be able to hear as much as possible when shouting from eddy to eddy. well worth the $10 IMO, saved me from having to continue to go to the ER for ear infections. drop some vinegar in your ears afterwards and that will also kill the nasties b/c of the pH factor. I've had no ear problems with several years of this practice.
 

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Do a google search for surfer's ear or exostosis and you will find lots of information. My understanding is it's mainly a consequence of continual exposure to cold water and/or wind that causes a boney growth in the ear canal. I'm honestly surprised how many people around here don't wear ear plugs. I don't know what the temperature threshold is, but I think it's safe to say that if you kayak in Colorado you should have them in almost all the time.

Sorry to hear about your tinnitus. From what I understand this is a pretty difficult condition to deal with. I read some article recently saying that they've really advanced their understanding of the disease a great deal in recent years, so hopefully a treatment is on the horizon.
 

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exostosis

Hey, thanks for the post. I've heard about cold water tumors and how it's a good idea to have ear plugs if you're in it a lot, but i don't know how it develops. Is it just cold water, or if you spend too much time upside down in any water? Also, how cold is the water for this to have a good chance of happening? just curious.
Exostosis is a bone growth that forms in the ear canal. The main culprit for their formation is cold dirty water. Cold water acts as an irritant to your ear canals. The body's main reaction is to close off the ear canal. The process takes years to form, but could be accellerated somewhat from paddling in colder regions like around here. What you first notice is "swimmers ear"- where you feel like after paddling, that there is water still in your ear. You may get ear infections from time to time. If left untreated, and especially if you're a die hard paddler, the condition can worsen into "surfers ear". This is where you feel that water is lodged in your ear for an extended period of time- hours to days. This stage creeps up on you. If as you read this and think, hmm that sounds like my ears, get checked out by an ENT. Once surfers ear starts, it hard to get the growths to at least stop forming any further short of surgery. Whenever I finally went to the doctor he took one look in my ears and said that I had the worst exostosis he had ever seen. I had been a serious paddler for about 15 years until then. The 4-5 hour surgery is kind of brutal- once your knocked out, they take what looks like a dremmel tool with a diamond encrusted drill bit and literally bore out your ears. Then they took a square inch skin graft from the inside of my upper arm and used it to make a new lining for my ear canal. I missed 2 months of prime boating, per ear, since I couldn't hear. Perhaps I started wearing ear plugs too late, and therefore couldn't get Docs plugs to fit right. Bottom line is protect yourself and get good ear plugs.
 

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Never realized you could hear well with Doc's plugs. But I also never realized I had exostosis! After a winter of middle ear infections (probably not related to cold water boating), I went to the ENT who said...Do you swim in cold water a lot? You have moderate exostosis in one ear.
I am hardly a hard core playboater and surf some, but I always wondered why water stays in one ear worse than the other. Duh.
So ummm, you can get ear tumors with very little time in cold water. I wonder if exposure to lots of cold wind hastens it. I bike all winter long ....
And yeah, what those other guys said. Don't let it get bad. I have pals with serious problems from exostosis.
I saw a product on a a web page for surfers with severe exostosis who use a warming device after surfing. Its $100, and god knows if it works, but makes some sense. If it reverses hours of cold water ear abuse, maybe it is worth it. Looks like one of those ear thermometers. Warms your ear canal back up. Could not hurt.
And has anybody had experience with helmets like Gath that have some thermal protection???
 

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Can anyone recomend a good ENT in Fort Collins?

I ruptured by ear drum last fall and waited all winter for it to heal but my doc says it is unlikely. In my case he also said I have mild exostosis which makes the surgery more risky and more likely the graph won't take. I'm considering surgery to repair it after the season but am looking for a second opinion.

Anyone have any experience with surgery to repair a ruptured ear drum?

I did get a pair of personalized plugs from my ENT and they seem to be slightly better than docs but I can't tell if they're going to keep the water out. I'm somewhat skeptical, can anyone else with custom plugs tell me how their's feel?
 

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My ENT custom plugs fit pretty tight in my ear. I believe the proprietary name of the plugs is "aquanot". There's bound to be some distortion with the PVS impression material they use(same stuff I use for crown and bridge work) but not really enough to notice. Some water will get in between the plug and your ear and form a thin film but it will stay there and get warmed by your body -- kind of like a wetsuit. If something is against your ear (like a full face helmet) they can start to hurt after a while They hurt to pull out but not to put in. Too many times in and out and your ear will be sore after boating. Overall, pretty comfortable if you leave them alone, super effective. Paddling out of the royal gorge on a cold windy day a few weeks ago I put them in because the headwind was blowing hard into my wet ears -- cold! They did the trick. I got mine for free so they're worth every penny but I would recommend getting a pair. A preventative measure like this might be covered by health insurance, even, esp. if you have documented hx of otitis media, exostotic growth, etc. Check it out.

They do, however, cut down almost completely on your hearing. For that reason, I only wear them playboating or downriver on play runs. Communication is too important on a creek and you're not supposed to be upside down anyway. Nystagmus is a little added insentive to brace effectively.

My ears are ringing right now, too, but it's cuz I just saw the Black Keys at the Ogden. They rocked SO hard! I feel like when I was young and bird hunting with my dad -- deaf from all the shotgun blasting.
 
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