Itchy ears – it’s a common problem, and also an embarrassing one. The overwhelming urge to scratch your ears can be very awkward in public and it’s an uncomfortable and very irritating sensation. Here we ponder the question, why do ears get itchy?
There are several common reasons behind this annoying problem, and various risk factors to take into consideration. Depending on the cause and severity, there are a few different treatment options.
So if you’re wondering, “why is my ear itchy?”, and how to resolve this problem, read on to find out what to do for itchy ears.
All About Itchy Ears
The skin of the inner ear is very delicate and this makes it susceptible to infection, and reactive to its environment. The warmth and moisture inside the ear canal can provide the ideal surroundings for bacteria to grow, meaning that ears can often be problematic.
While ear infections are less common in adults than they are in children, itchy ears can be a sign of infection. Other symptoms of itchy ears which could indicate an infection include swelling, fever and discharge from the ear.
Allergies are another potential cause, and also chronic skin complaints.
This might be accompanied by dry or flaking skin and redness around the ear canal opening. Itchy ears may also be a result of too much or too little earwax being present in the canal.
It’s important to identify the root cause of the problem to find the appropriate solution. Let’s look in more detail at the causes of itchy ears.
Why Do Ears Get Itchy?
One of the most common causes of itchy ears is over-cleaning of the ear canals. Ear wax is designed to work its way naturally out of the ear canal, bringing dead skin and any debris with it. This very efficient system can be disrupted by excessive cleaning.
Using cotton swabs can push earwax back into the ear canal, causing blockages, or can cause irritation to the delicate skin of the ear canal. This in turn causes more itching. Broken skin also makes it easier for bacteria to enter, increasing the risk of infection.
Scratching itchy ears, therefore, becomes a vicious cycle – the more you scratch, the worse the itching gets. Earwax, or cerumen, has an important purpose in maintaining the cleanliness and function of the ear canal, so it’s important that it’s not removed aggressively.
Other causes of itchy ears include skin conditions. Eczema can cause patches of skin to become inflamed, red and itchy. Psoriasis in the ears causes a red and itchy rash on the skin. Both can be treated with ear drops, or steroids might be recommended in extreme cases.
Another very common cause of itching is bacterial or fungal infections. This can be a particularly troublesome issue for swimmers. If water stays inside the ear canal after swimming, this can introduce germs and wear away the natural layer of protection.
A final cause of itchy ears worth mentioning is allergies. This could be to some new beauty product you’ve used – perhaps that new hairspray or shampoo has irritated your skin? Or seasonal allergies can also cause problems.
So now that you know the possible causes of this very irritating problem, let’s move on to solutions – what to do for itchy ears?
Treatment for Itchy Ears
Over-the-counter ear drops can relieve the itching of the ears. This can help to restore the natural balance in the ear and stop the infuriating itching sensation. Alternatively, you could try a couple of drops of olive oil or baby oil inserted into the ear at night.
Excessive earwax may make your ears itchy. For some people, earwax build-up is persistent and does not respond to home remedies. Ear wax build-up is also common in hearing aid users. Professional earwax cleaning by microsuction may be necessary in these cases.
For allergy sufferers, a simple antihistamine might help to alleviate itching. Identifying the cause of the allergic reaction and stopping using the product which is triggering the reaction is also a sensible strategy.
The most important advice for sufferers of itchy ears is to try not to scratch! This is easier said than done, of course, but it really can make things worse. And whatever you do, don’t insert anything into the ear canal – this can cause serious damage.
If you’ve tried home remedies with no success, or you’re not able to work out the cause of your itchy ears, you should seek advice from ear health specialists. An ear nurse can examine your ear, determine the root cause of the itching and formulate a treatment plan.
You should seek out urgent medical attention if there is severe bleeding from the ear, excessive discharge or sudden hearing loss. Pain, swelling and skin break down are indications of severe infection, which should not be left untreated.
What About Hearing Aid Users?
Itchy ears can be a real problem for hearing aid users. The domes or earmoulds can cause irritation by chafing the skin, or the hearing aid can block the ear canal, which causes a build-up of moisture. This can cause itching and also increases the risk of ear infections.
It’s tempting just to stop using your hearing aid if it’s causing discomfort. But it’s not necessary to suffer in silence. You should arrange to see an Ear Health audiologist who can ensure that your hearing aid fits correctly and advise on a care plan to manage the issue. Itchy ears shouldn’t stop you from being able to hear properly and participate in conversations with loved ones.
What to Do for Itchy Ears?
We’ve covered lots of options of how to manage itchy ears and explored some of the causes of this common and annoying complaint. If you need more help and advice on what to do for itchy ears, don’t hesitate to contact your friendly local Ear Health team for specialist help.