Why Do Ears Get Itchy?: A Guide to the Causes and Treatments of Itchy Ears

Woman with itchy ears puts a finger into her ear

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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 consider. Depending on the cause and severity, a few different treatment options exist.

If you’re wondering, “why is my ear itchy?” and how to resolve this problem, read on to learn more.

All About Itchy Ears

The skin of the inner ear is very delicate, which 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 in children, itchy ears can be a sign of infection. Other symptoms of itchy ears could indicate an infection, including swelling, fever and discharge from the ear.

Allergies are another potential cause, as also chronic skin complaints.

This might be accompanied by dry or flaking skin and redness around the ear canal opening. Itchy ears may also result from too much or too little earwax in the canal.

It’s essential 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 the ear canals with cotton buds. Ear wax is designed to work naturally out of the ear canal, bringing dead skin and any debris with it. This very efficient system can be disrupted by excessive cleaning.

Cotton swabs can push earwax back into the ear canal, causing blockages or irritating the ear canal’s delicate skin. This, in turn, causes more itching. Broken skin also makes it easier for bacteria to enter, increasing the risk of infection.

Scratching itchy ears becomes a vicious cycle – the more you scratch, the worse the itching gets. Earwax, or cerumen, has a vital purpose in maintaining the cleanliness and function of the ear canal, so it mustn’t be 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 prevalent 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 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 triggering the reaction is also a sensible strategy.

The most crucial advice for sufferers of itchy ears is to try not to scratch! This is easier said than done, of course, but it can worsen things. And whatever you do, don’t insert anything into the ear canal – this can cause damage.

If you’ve tried home remedies with no success, or you’re unable 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 itching’s root cause, and formulate a treatment plan.

You should seek urgent medical attention if there is severe bleeding from the ear, excessive discharge or sudden hearing loss. Pain, swelling and skin breakdown 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 irritate by chafing the skin, or the hearing aid can block the ear canal, which causes moisture build-up. This can cause itching and also increases the risk of ear infections.

It’s tempting to stop using your hearing aid if it’s causing discomfort. But it’s not necessary to suffer in silence. Itchy ears shouldn’t stop you from being able to hear correctly and participate in conversations with loved ones. You should arrange to see an Ear Health audiologist who can ensure that your hearing aid fits perfectly and advise on a care plan to manage the issue.

What to Do for Itchy Ears?

We’ve covered many options for managing 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.

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