Itchy ears can be annoying and bothersome. It is a common problem that can be associated with different factors. While having itchy ears is not usually a medical emergency or a common cause for concern, you may need to seek medical attention if it is persistent, if the symptoms are progressing, or if the itch is accompanied by ear pain, an unexplainable rash, hives, or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Depending on the cause, it might even be helpful to consult an audiologist or a doctor who could prescribe antibiotics if an infection is detected.
As annoying as the itch may be, things would be a lot worse if you damage your inner ear by scratching it. In this article, we will be sharing some indispensable tips to guide you and prevent such occurrences.
Read the rest of this article to learn more about the causes, treatments, and home remedies that can help with itchy ears.
We aim to equip you with the knowledge and tools necessary to manage discomfort while preserving your ear health.
What Can Cause Itchy Ears?
There are a variety of factors that could cause itchy ears. Common causes may include:
- Ear Infection. Itchy ears can be an early sign that an ear infection is developing. Generally, bacteria and viruses can cause ear infections, and usually in conjunction with a cold or allergies. Infections can also occur because of water building up in your ear, or excess earwax.
- Earwax Buildup. Earwax buildup or blockage can cause itchy ears and loss of hearing. Your ears constantly produce earwax, but they also rid your body of earwax so that most people never have to clean their ears at all. Itching ears, infections, and other problems may occur if your ear produces excess earwax.
- Food Allergies. An allergic reaction to certain types of foods may cause itchy ears in some people. If you notice that you have rashes on your face, puffy eyes, or feel a tingling in or around your mouth, you might have an allergic reaction to a food, drink, or product that you recently ingested or applied.
- Dry Ears. The wax in your ears helps to keep them lubricated and clean. If your ears do not produce enough wax, or if you clean them too often with a cotton swab, it can dry your ears out and cause irritation and itchiness.
- Cleaning Your Ears. Not only can cleaning your ears too often remove needed earwax, but it can also push the wax further toward your inner ear. This may result in irritation that leads to pain and itchiness.
- Swimmer’s Ear. If water gets trapped in your ear, it can cause a condition called acute otitis externa or “swimmer’s ear.” This can make your ear feel very itchy. If you are a swimmer or like to engage in water sports and activities, you may be more at risk of experiencing itchy ears.
- Skin Allergies. Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, occurs when you have an allergic reaction to particles in the air. One of the common symptoms is that your ears itch.
- Hearing Aids. Hearing aids can cause itchiness in your ear because of their plastic coating, pressure from the hearing aid, or excess water being trapped. If you need a hearing aid, do not let itchiness be a reason you do not get one. Your audiologist can help make sure you get the right one.
- Eczema/Psoriasis. These two, along with some other skin conditions and skin diseases, can cause your ears to itch, become inflamed, or form scaly patches around the ear.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis. This is a common skin condition that most often affects your scalp. Among other organs, seborrheic dermatitis can also affect your ears, causing itchiness and discomfort.
- Flu: Flu or colds can trigger a sensation of congestion. This congestion may make you want to just stay in bed all day, and in some cases, it can trigger other symptoms such as migraine, dizziness, or a tingling in your ears. This is normal, but if you notice that the itchiness doesn’t go away even if the cold or flu has gone away, you may need to see a doctor.
Why Are Ears So Sensitive?
Because of their function, your ears are one of the most sensitive organs in your body. They convert pressure fluctuations to sound, they are vital for balance, and for the most part, they clean and take care of themselves.
If you’ve ever experienced their sensitivity through ear pain or a disruptive feeling, you will know just how sensitive they can be.
The environment in your inner ear also makes them very sensitive. The warmth and moisture in the ear canal make them susceptible to infection while the earwax that is made to protect the ear can sometimes make it worse. You might even notice a rash in severe cases.
The combination of the environment and the intricate – almost miraculous – work that they do make them one of the most sensitive organs in the human body.
Ear Hygiene and Cleaning
Itchy ears can be caused by various factors, including excess earwax, allergies, infections, or even skin conditions. While it’s crucial to identify the root cause with the help of an audiologist, maintaining good ear hygiene is a fundamental step in preventing and alleviating ear itching.
Say No to Cotton Swabs:
Contrary to popular belief, cotton swabs are not your ears’ best friends. Yes, the sensation of cleaning your ears may be satisfying, but doing so could put your ears at risk. Cotton swabs could push earwax deeper into the ear canal, risking impaction. Instead, let your ears do their self-cleaning magic. The ear canal is designed to move earwax naturally towards the opening, where it can be easily wiped away.
Gentle External Cleaning:
When it comes to cleaning the outer part of your ears, simplicity is key. Using just the right tools like a washcloth dampened with warm water is essential to gently wiping the exterior of your ears. Avoid inserting any objects into the ear canal, as this can lead to irritation or injury.
Earwax serves a protective function, trapping dust and debris before they reach the delicate inner ear. However, an excess can lead to itchiness. If you suspect an earwax buildup, consult your audiologist for a safe removal procedure. They may recommend drops to soften the wax, making it easier to naturally migrate out of the ear.
Keep Ears Dry:
Moisture in the ears can create a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, potentially leading to infections. After swimming or bathing, tilt your head to the side to allow water to drain out. If you’re prone to ear infections, consider wearing earplugs when swimming.
Allergies can contribute to itchy ears. Identify and manage allergens that may be affecting you. If you suspect allergies are the culprit, consult an allergist for appropriate testing and management strategies. It’s vital to stay ahead of your allergies, especially when they cause more than an annoying itch but also a general feeling of discomfort. Schedule regular visits with your audiologist to monitor your ear health. They can recognize the redness, a common symptom indicating a potential health issue. Moreover, they can provide personalized advice based on your unique requirements and suggest ways to keep maintaining your ear health; like avoiding inserting a finger or small objects such as bobby pins, which can potentially disturb the delicate skin cells in your ear, leading to complications.
Itching is one of the most common complaints associated with hearing aids. The ear canal has very delicate skin, and even a stray hair can cause it to itch, let alone a device like a hearing aid, or in some cases, earrings. In fact, one study showed about 40% of hearing aid wearers cited itchiness as a side effect.
Hearing Aids And Itchy Ears
Whatever you do, do not let itchy ears be the thing that prevents you from wearing hearing aids if you need them. The key is to not just purchase a hearing aid from a website or from a third party.
Find an audiologist in your area who can find the right hearing aid for you, and then fit it to your ear for optimal comfort and performance, reducing the risk of dry skin cells, redness, and other symptoms.
If you frequently wear earbuds, overuse can lead to irritation, swelling, and itchiness of the inner ear. If you use earbuds a lot, it can even lead to cases of swimmer’s ear, especially if the earbuds are not clean and have alcohol residue. With air pods and other wireless earbuds growing in popularity, this is something that people need to be extra mindful of.
Itchy Ears FAQs
Can Earbuds Cause An Itchy Inner Ear?
There are things you can do to prevent itchy ears. The best thing anyone can do to prevent itchy ears is to not put anything in your ears like fingers or bobby pins. Many people are in the habit of using cotton swabs or other objects to “clean” their ears; however, this can actually remove protective earwax, damage the ear, or even push earwax deeper into the ear. Some other things you can do to prevent itchiness include:
Can You Prevent Itchy Ears?
If you suffer from persistently dry or itchy ears, you should see a doctor to find out the underlying cause and to come up with a solution. It cannot be overstated that you should not put anything inside your ears like alcoholic contents to relieve the itching, as it could kill beneficial skin cells.
- Wearing earplugs while swimming.
- Use a clean towel to dry the outside of your ears.
- Not overusing earbuds.
- Softening ear wax with over-the-counter kits when it begins to build up.
- Avoiding irritants.
What Can I Do To Relieve Itching?
When faced with the discomfort of itchy ears, over-the-counter (OTC) remedies can offer relief. However, it’s essential to approach these solutions with caution and consult with a healthcare professional, such as your audiologist or primary care physician, before using any alcohol-based products.
Over-the-counter Remedies for Itchy Ears
Here are some common OTC remedies for itchy ears:
Ear Drops (Antibacterial or Antifungal Ear Drops):
- Hydrogen Peroxide Drops: OTC hydrogen peroxide drops can help soften earwax, facilitating its natural expulsion from the ear canal. Follow the instructions carefully, and avoid using it if you have a history of ear issues or a perforated eardrum.
- Mineral Oil Drops: These drops can also aid in earwax removal by softening it. Mineral oil is generally safe but consult with your healthcare provider if you have concerns.
Ear drops containing hydrocortisone can help relieve itching caused by inflammation. They may also contain antibacterial or antifungal agents for additional relief.
If your itchy ears are related to allergies, OTC oral antihistamines like loratadine or cetirizine may provide relief. However, these medications can cause dryness, so use them under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Earwax Removal Kits With Bulb Syringe or Irrigation Solutions:
These kits often contain a bulb syringe or drops designed to irrigate the ear and flush out excess earwax. Follow the instructions carefully, and avoid aggressive use to prevent injury.
Moisturizing Ear Creams:
Some creams are specifically formulated to alleviate dry or itchy ears. These may contain ingredients like aloe vera or chamomile. Apply them externally, avoiding insertion into the ear canal.
For external ear itching caused by inflammation, OTC hydrocortisone creams can be applied sparingly. It’s crucial to avoid getting the cream inside the ear canal where it might interact negatively with dust mites or be triggered by pollen, both of which can contribute to congestion and ear itching.
Pre-packaged Ear Cleaning Solutions or Ear Cleaning Kits:
These kits often include pre-packaged solutions for ear cleaning designed to combat earwax blockage. They are designed to be safe and effective when used as directed. Some of these kits may also have components particularly aimed at germs, contributing to overall ear wellness.
Remember, self-diagnosis and treatment may not always be accurate, and persistent ear issues should prompt a visit to a healthcare professional. Studies show that symptoms like pain, drainage, or hearing loss due to earwax blockage or congestion require prompt medical attention.
Your audiologist or healthcare provider can provide personalized guidance and ensure that the chosen OTC remedies are safe and appropriate for your specific situation.
In addition to seeking professional advice and potential medical treatments, making certain lifestyle changes can contribute to reducing itchy ears caused by pollen, dust mites, or germs.
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Itchy Ears
Here are some recommendations to help alleviate and prevent ear itching:
Resist the urge to use cotton swabs or other objects to clean your ears. This can push earwax deeper into the ear canal, leading to irritation and possibly creating an ideal environment for dust mites.
- Avoid Inserting Objects into Your Ears:
Gently clean the external part of your ears using a washcloth dampened with warm water. Avoid inserting anything into the ear canal to prevent earwax blockage and congestion.
- Maintain Good Ear Hygiene:
Allow your ears to naturally expel earwax. If you experience excess earwax or congestion due to dust mites or pollen, consult with your audiologist or healthcare provider for safe removal procedures.
- Limit Earwax Removal:
Wear earplugs when swimming to prevent water from entering the ear canal. Excess moisture can contribute to bacterial or fungal infections, or germs multiply rapidly.
- Protect Your Ears During Water Activities:
Identify and manage allergens, like pollen, that may be causing your ear itching. Keep your living environment clean, use air purifiers, and consult with an allergist for appropriate testing and management strategies.
- Manage Allergies:
Be mindful of the products you use on or around your ears. Harsh chemicals in hair dyes, shampoos, or ear care products may contribute to irritation and attract dust mites, thereby increasing ear itching.
- Avoid Harsh Chemicals:
Drinking an adequate amount of water helps maintain overall health, including the health of your skin and mucous membranes. Hydration can prevent dryness and irritation in and around the ears, thus deterring the accumulation of germs.
- Stay Hydrated:
Chronic stress can exacerbate various health issues, including skin conditions. Practice stress-management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to promote wellness and reduce the body’s susceptibility to germs.
- Manage Stress:
Certain dietary factors may contribute to inflammation or allergic reactions. Consider consulting with a nutritionist or healthcare provider to assess your diet and identify potential triggers like dust mites or pollen.
- Evaluate Your Diet:
If you work in environments with loud noises, use ear protection to prevent hearing damage. Additionally, if you are exposed to airborne irritants or pollutants like pollen, consider wearing ear protection or taking measures to reduce exposure. Some allergies are triggered by a low immune system. If that’s the case, you might want to load up on immune-boosting fruits such as apples, cherries, bananas, melons, etc.
- Protect Your Ears from Environmental Irritants:
Always consult with an audiologist to address persistent or worsening ear itchiness caused by dust mites, germs, and pollen. Lifestyle changes, when combined with appropriate medical guidance, can significantly contribute to reducing discomfort and promoting ear health.
In the case of mild itchiness due to issues like dry skin or an outer ear infection, home remedies may work. For instance, a few drops of baby oil could help to restore the cerumen balance and moisturize the skin. This could also alleviate itchiness that might occur from using a hearing aid. Upon encountering such an issue, ensuring that your hearing aid is correctly fitted and adjusted is a crucial step in treatment.
Drying the outside of the ear could help, provided you do not insert any objects inside your ear.
Feeling a sensation of dizziness can sometimes be related to sinus problems, which can also cause itchiness in your ears. Thus, managing the underlying cause of the itchiness in scenarios like food allergies, skin conditions, or hay fever should also alleviate itchiness, hearing loss, and dizziness.
The best course of action if the case is severe enough, or if you cannot determine the cause, is to see a medical professional such as an audiologist, ENT, or dermatologist.
How Are Itchy Ears Treated?
If you do not know the cause of the itching, have attempted a home remedy without success, or are experiencing swelling or pain in your ears, you should seek medical attention right away.
A doctor could offer guidance towards safe at-home remedies in the future and save you any type of pain or discomfort from attempting risky measures. Ideally, a medical professional will quickly address your issues and help prevent their recurrence.
When To See A Doctor
If you’re experiencing persistent itchiness in your ears, it’s vital to seek advice from a healthcare professional, such as an audiologist, a dermatologist or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.
These professionals may suggest various diagnostic tests to pinpoint the underlying cause of your itchy ears.
Diagnostic Tests for Itchy Ears
Below are some common diagnostic tests that might be performed if you have itchy ears:
This basic ear examination utilizes an otoscope, a handheld instrument with a light. It enables the healthcare provider to inspect the ear canal and eardrum, helping to identify issues such as cerumen impaction, inflammation, or signs of infection.
Audiometry (Hearing Test):
An audiometry test assesses your hearing abilities. It may not directly diagnose the cause of the itchiness, but it helps rule out hearing-related issues contributing to your symptoms. This test involves listening to different frequencies and volumes of sounds to determine your hearing thresholds.
If allergies are thought to be causing itchy ears, allergy testing may be recommended. This can involve skin prick tests or blood tests to identify the specific allergens causing your symptoms.
Culture of Ear Discharge:
If there is discharge from the ear, a sample may be collected and sent to a laboratory for culture and sensitivity testing. This process helps identify the bacteria or fungi type causing an infection and determine the most effective treatment.
If contact dermatitis (skin irritation) is suspected, your dermatologist may perform patch testing. This involves applying common allergens to patches and placing them on the skin to check for an allergic reaction.
Open communication with your healthcare provider about your symptoms, medical history, and any relevant lifestyle factors is crucial.
It’s important to communicate openly with your healthcare provider about your symptoms, medical history, and any relevant lifestyle factors. This information, coupled with the results of diagnostic tests, will help guide the healthcare professional in determining the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific situation. Always follow the advice and recommendations of your healthcare provider for the best outcome.
In conclusion, addressing itchy ears is not only about finding relief but also ensuring the long-term health of your auditory system. If you’ve been grappling with persistent ear itching, it’s time to take a proactive step towards a solution.
Remember, an audiologist is your partner in ear health, equipped with the expertise to identify the root cause of your discomfort and provide personalized guidance. Don’t let itching ears go unaddressed – take that important step towards relief and schedule a consultation with your audiologist today.
By consulting with an audiologist, you’re investing in your hearing health and overall well-being. Whether it’s a routine check-up, diagnostic tests, or a tailored treatment plan, your audiologist is there to guide you on the path to itch-free ears and optimal auditory health.
Don’t let discomfort linger – make that call, schedule that appointment, and embark on the journey to a life with ears that are not just free from itching but are thriving in health and harmony.
Your ears deserve the best care, and your audiologist is here to provide just that. Take the first step towards relief – your ears will thank you for it!