Having itchy ears can be irritating and annoying as these parts of the body are not easy to scratch. Our fingers are not made to penetrate the ears and scratch the itch. Many people complain about this problem as it can literally drive you crazy. Even if you want to get some relief to soothe your ear, it is not advisable to scratch the ears as it may lead to infection, swelling and inflammation. The best thing that you can do if you are experiencing itchy ears is to identify the exact cause so you can treat it properly.
Causes of Itchy Ears
The ear is one of the most sensitive parts of the body and it is filled with nerve endings that respond to external stimuli. This is the reason why the ears are also prone to itching that makes you want to scratch the inside. Even the smallest accumulation of debris or a strand of hair can be felt and leads to an itching sensation.
In rare cases, insects may find their way inside the ear canal. With the help of an ear doctor, the insect can be easily removed after making sure that it is dead with the use of an alcohol. Some children are also fond of putting small objects inside their nose and ears, which can be dangerous and troublesome. Here are the most common causes of itchy ears:
1. Dry Ears
The normal ears have thin layers of natural body oil. However, some ears do not produce enough ear wax and it leads to dry or itchy ears. People who often clean their ears to remove the natural wax may also lead to dry and itchy ears. When the skin is dry, it tends to flake and causes an itchy sensation. People who do not produce enough natural wax can use few drops of vegetable oil.
2. Hearing Aids
Using hearing aids may cause an itching sensation in the ears. The plastic of the device or its polish may cause an allergic reaction in the ears of the user. If this is the cause, it is best to have the polished removed or change the mold of the hearing aids. In other cases, water may get trapped in the ears when using hearing aids. This may cause irritation so it is advisable to keep the external ear dry as much as possible.
If the hearing aids have a bump that gives a lot of pressure in the ear canal, it may cause irritation that leads to itchy sensation. The best thing to do is to revise the mold of the hearing aids.
Before using your hearing aid, allow your ears to dry. If there is still water in the ear canal, your hearing aid will only trap it inside and it increases the chance of irritation and infection.
3. Ear Injuries or Infection
When the ears are itchy, you may have desired to insert your finger, bobby pin, cotton swap or something small into the ear canal to get rid of the itch. However, scratching the skin may lead to an infection and can make the condition worse. The persistent itchy problem can be a result of inserting an object inside the ear.
Swimmer’s ear or otitis externa is an infection in the outer ear canal. It runs from the eardrum to the outer part of the head. The main cause of this infection is the trapped water in the ears after swimming. This creates a damped environment that allows bacteria to grow and develop. Putting cotton swabs, fingers or other objects inside the ear can also result to swimmer’s ear by damaging the skin lining the ear canal.
The itchy sensation can also be a result of viral infection in rare cases, such as herpes zoster. Small blisters appear in or on the ear.
To prevent itchy ears from injuries or infection, do not insert anything inside the ears. Even though it feels good to ease the itch with cotton swab, finger, pen, bobby pin or car key, it increases your risk of injury.
4. Ear Canal Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis of the ear canal causes an allergic reaction. The skin of the ears will become inflamed and swollen, and it leads to severe itching sensation. The triggers may include earrings and other beauty product such as hair dye, lotions and hairspray. Aural eczematoid dermatitis of the ear canal may occur in some people who have dermatitis-like conditions like psoriasis and seborrhea.
Both types of ear canal dermatitis result to redness, itching, peeling, skin cracking and a clear discharge. It can be treated with corticosteroids. For contact dermatitis, it is best to avoid the triggers. Make sure that your earrings and other jewelries are not causing allergic reactions.
For aural eczematoid dermatitis, your doctor may recommend few drops of diluted aluminum acetate solution.
People who are suffering from psoriasis may also experience itchy ears. A red rash develops and results to skin flaking as well as severe itching. The patches may also crack and bleed. Psoriasis is the result of over production of skin cells, which leads to skin cells build-up. The scales usually develop on joints, but may also develop anywhere such as neck, hands, face, scalp and feet. It can also affect the mouth, nails, and around the genital area.
In rare cases, a bug may find its way into the ear while you are sleeping. It can get trapped by the natural ear wax. The presence of this organism may lead to irritation, buzzing sound, and itching as it tries to escape.
7. Other Causes
Other causes of itchy ears include:
- Excessive moisture – If you are always exposed to excessive moisture, it increases your chance of developing ear infections that cause itchy sensation.
- Allergies – Asthma and other types of allergies can result to itchy ears. The triggers can be pollen, shampoo, pet dander or others that make their way into the ears. To improve your condition, stay clear of the irritants as much as possible.
- Earwax blockage – This may occur when the body produces excessive earwax and it pushes too far into the ear canal. You may feel fullness in the ear, itchiness, earache, buzzing or ringing sounds in the ear. If this is the case, it is best to visit a doctor for proper ear treatment.
Home Remedies for Itchy Ears
Here are some home remedies that you can try to deal with the problem.
- OTC ear drops – You can purchase OTC ear drops to deal with minor ear infections or irritation. If the itching sensation is caused by an allergy or environmental factor, ear drops can usually control the problem.
- Lotion –For dry ears that result to itchiness, you can apply a small amount of lotion to moisturize the area. It can prevent the skin from flaking. You can also use petroleum jelly or soothing gel.
- Water and Alcohol – Mix rubbing alcohol with warm water and use a soft syringe to pour few drops into the ear canal. This mixture will get rid of bacteria that cause infections, kill bugs and eliminate debris from the ears.
- Oil – You can also use warm vegetable or olive oil to alleviate the itch. Add few drops into the ear to hydrate or moisturize the skin. It can also reduce the infection and irritation.
- Hydrogen peroxide – You can use hydrogen peroxide if the itch is caused by an infection. This will kill the fungi or bacteria in the ear canal. Simply pour few drops into the ear and allow it to bubble away. If you feel pain, it can be a sign of infection.
These home remedies are only good if the itchy ear is caused by minor irritations. However, these are not effective if the problem is more serious. If the problem still persists after treating with home remedies, discontinue the treatment and see your doctor immediately. It can be a sign of a more serious problem and your doctor needs to check the ear properly to prevent it from getting worse. Depending on the underlying cause, your doctor may prescribe:
- Medicated eardrops – Infection like the swimmer’s ear is serious and you will need a stronger medication. Your doctor may recommend Dexamethasone, ofloxacin, or ciproflaxin to get rid of the fungi or bacteria that cause the infection. Do not buy without the proper diagnosis and prescription of your doctor.
- Antibiotic ointment – This ointment can deal with fungal and bacterial infection, such as ear canal dermatitis, otitis media, and swimmer’s ear.
- Baby oil – Your doctor may recommend baby oil if the cause of your itchy ears is dry skin. It is an effective moisturizer and can hydrate the skin quickly to prevent it from flaking.
- Antibiotics – Your doctor may recommend stronger antibiotics if your itchy ear is accompanied by a fever or severe inflammation, discharge, or bleeding. Antibiotics can reduce the infection and eliminate the cause of itching.
- Steroidal topical ointment – This ointment can aid in reducing inflammation.