While your ears may be fairly small compared to an arm or leg, they are full of sensitive neurological fibers. As a result, ears are subject to their fair share of itching. You might have chronically itchy ears simply because they’re highly sensitive. However, itchy ears could also indicate an underlying medical condition. By understanding some of the causes of itchy ears, you can determine how to find potential relief from chronic itching.
Itchy ears can stem from a number of causes. Some common examples include:
If your ears don’t produce enough ear wax, your ear skin can become dry and itchy. Wax has lubricating effects, and its absence can cause you to experience itching. You may even notice flaking skin coming from the ear.
Ear Canal Dermatitis
This occurs when the skin in and around the ear canal becomes inflamed. This condition can be the result of an allergic reaction — for instance, a reaction to beauty products or the metals in earrings. Another dermatitis type is aural (meaning of the ear) eczematoid dermatitis, which has unknown causes.
Otitis Media (Ear Infection)
Otitis media, or infection of the ear, can cause ear pain as well as itching. This is especially true for otitis externa or swimmer’s ear, a condition in which the outer ear canal becomes infected. Infection can also lead to redness and swelling.
Hearing Aid Use
Hearing aids can cause water to become trapped in the ears or can trigger an allergic reaction to the hearing aid itself. Ill-fitting hearing aids can also place pressure on certain areas of the ear, which can lead to itching.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes a person to develop a red rash on the skin. Just as psoriasis can occur on more visible body parts, such as the arm, it can also appear inside the ears.
Itchy ears feel irritating and bothersome to the point where you feel like itching or scratching will help. However, these symptoms typically cause your ears to feel worse when you do scratch. Infected, itchy ears are accompanied by fever, swelling, and drainage from the ear.
Seek immediate medical attention if you’re experiencing severe bleeding or drainage from your ears or if you suddenly experience hearing loss.
Make an appointment to see your doctor if your itchy ear symptoms don’t improve with time or home care.
Your doctor will likely examine your ears and take a medical history to help identify potential causes. This can help them identify any telltale rashes, such as eczema-like patches. Your doctor also may view excess earwax or earwax very close to the eardrum, which can cause itching. They will likely ask when your symptoms developed and about any accompanying symptoms, such as a fever, to pinpoint your condition’s cause.
Itchy ears are typically due to a breakdown in ear skin health. This includes problems with earwax lubrication, excess water in the ear, and foreign particles and debris in the ear. Treatment usually seeks to fix these breakdowns.
If your itchy ears are the result of an allergic reaction, refrain from using any products that could have potentially caused the irritation. This includes new earrings and beauty products.
Always consult your physician before putting ointments or drops in or on your ear. This ensures you are not putting something in the ear that can irritate the inflammation more than improve it. Also, if you have a damaged eardrum, you should not use any ointments or drops unless your physician specifically prescribes them.
Your physician may recommend or prescribe the following treatments:
- antibiotic ointment
- baby oil to soften the skin
- steroid topical ointment that relieves inflammation, such as one percent hydrocortisone cream or 0.1 percent bethamethasone cream
- swimmer’s ear eardrops or diluted solution of rubbing alcohol, acetic acid, or hydrogen peroxide
In some instances, such as when your itching ears are accompanied by a high temperature or blood or pus draining from the ear, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to relieve infection.
If you have difficulty refraining from putting foreign objects in your ears to clean them, consider scheduling regular cleaning appointments with your doctor to clean your ears. This can minimize trauma to the area while helping you remove excess earwax.
To prevent irritation, avoid “cleaning” your ears with objects such as cotton balls, cotton swabs, paper clips, or bobby pins. Using anti-allergenic jewelry can also prevent allergic reactions that lead to itching.
If you swim frequently, use a solution to dry up excess water in the ear canal.
If you experience excess earwax production, you may want to use doctor-approved approaches, such as eardrops or a bulb syringe to keep earwax at a more manageable level.