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Santa Cruz Doctors Cutting Edge Procedure Providing Patients Worldwide with Relief from 'Surfers Ear'

Respected medical journal publishes article validating treatment

Sacramento, Calif., March. 7, 2007 A new study by Douglas Hetzler, M.D., an ear, nose and throat specialist at Sutter Health-affiliated Santa Cruz Medical Foundation, shows that patients suffering from an ear condition brought on by cold-water activities can rapidly heal following a safe and effective procedure employing chisels to remove bone growths that have built up in the external ear canal. The study, which focuses on "surfer's ear," was published in the January 2007 issue of The Laryngoscope, the journal of the American Laryngological, Rhinological and Otological Society.

Thanks to the pioneering procedure developed by Dr. Hetzler, and used for the past ten years, outdoor enthusiasts worldwide have found hope and a dependable solution for this condition which is brought on by exposure to the cold water temperatures of oceans, streams and lakes, and is characterized by ear plugging, hearing loss and painful ear infections. Despite its name, "surfer's ear" impacts thousands of people, including other athletes who kayak, swim and sail.

"Surfer's ear can be painful and debilitating for many outdoor enthusiasts," said Dr. Hetzler. "We've developed a procedure that restores hearing, eliminates pain, and has a typical three-week recovery time that allows patients to go on with their daily lives and outdoor activities."

Many water sports enthusiasts experience external ear canal blockages from repeated exposure to cold water and wind, according to Dr. Hetzler. Cold temperatures prompt bone growth that can narrow the canal and trap water and earwax. These materials can block the eardrum and cause hearing loss and ear infections over an extended period of time.

"After surfing for over 30 years I developed 'surfer's ear.' I experienced pain and loss of hearing," explained Larry White, patient in 2005. "Dr. Hetzler's procedure was relatively simple and I was home the same day. I was impressed with the short recovery period and happy to be back in the water within two weeks. I am now able to pursue outdoor activities that I enjoy, and I wear earplugs to prevent this condition from happening again."

Dr. Hetzler developed a precise chiseling technique that removes the bone growths and restores hearing. This procedure is less invasive than another typical procedure used by ear surgeons, which requires making an incision behind the ear and the use of a drill which may generate as much as 130 decibels (equivalent to the loudness of a jackhammer) and may have a longer post-operative recovery time.

Dr. Hetzler has offered the procedure to his patients since 1998 and it has increased in popularity considerably over the years. He notes that Santa Cruz has one of the highest per capita rates of "surfers ear" in the world. "Living in Santa Cruz on the cold Pacific Ocean, we were seeing more and more surfers who were agonizing over this condition," continued Dr. Hetzler. "But what started as a solution to a local problem has now grown into a respected procedure providing relief to patients worldwide."

Due to the specialized manner of this procedure, water sports enthusiasts from Hawaii, Alaska, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Colorado and Utah and all along the west coast have sought the expertise of Dr. Hetzler. The procedure is covered by most insurance plans.

Additional information and illustrations regarding this procedure may be found at www.santacruzmedical.org/surfersear.html. Dr. Hetzler presented his technique at the Trilogical Society Meeting at Marco Island, Florida in February and will present at the Pacific Coast Oto-Ophthalmological Society in Hawaii in June.

Taken from www.sutterhealth.org/about/news/news07_surfersear.html

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