Washington University paleoanthropologist Erik Trinkaus and his colleagues studied fossils, digital scans, photographs, and other archaeologists' reports from 77 Neanderthals and Homo sapiens who lived in Europe and Asia during the Pleistocene.
Based on this sampling of remains with preserved inner ear bones, a surprising number of Neanderthals were running around Pleistocene Eurasia with swimmer's ear.
Lifestyles of the cold, damp, and windy
You won't get swimmer's ear from a single cold-water surfing trip.
If you're looking at a skeleton, swimmer's ear is the kind of trait that can tell you something about a person's habits in life.
And they were more likely to develop severe cases, with bony growths large enough to mostly block the ear canal, as in the elderly Neanderthal now known to us only as Shanidar I.