There are few things worse than itchy ears! When your nose itches, you can give it a good scratching and deal with the itch once and for all. But it’s never that easy with an itchy ear. Your fingers just aren’t made to get into your ear and scratch that annoying little itch. It can drive you CRAZY!
On this page, we’re going to answer all of your itchy ear questions, including:
- Why do my ears itch?
- What causes itchy ears? Is it something I’m doing?
- Are itchy ears a sign of a more serious problem?
- What can I do to stop ears from itching?
- How can I treat my ears and prevent itches in the future?
By the time you reach the end, you’ll know everything there is to know about the causes of itchy ears and what to do for itchy ears.
First up, we take a look at the reason behind the itch…
What Causes Itchy Ears?
An “itch” is simply your nerve endings responding to an external stimulus. In fact, it’s similar to your body’s pain response; the main difference is that you get the desire to scratch an itch, while pain causes you to flinch or move away from the stimulus.
The ear is an incredibly delicate mechanism designed to detect and amplify vibrations in the air- also known as sounds. The ear is filled with nerve endings, making it one of the most sensitive parts of your body. It’s no surprise, then, that your ear is one of the places most prone to itching!
If you’re wondering, “Why do my ears itch?”, here are a few of the most common causes of itchy ears:
When your ears don’t produce the right amount of ear wax, the skin in your ear canal is unprotected. This can lead to dry skin in your ear canal.
Dry skin can be VERY itchy, especially if/when it starts to flake. A lack of ear wax may be the reason you have an itchy inner ear.
Otitis media and otitis externa (swimmer’s ear) are two common ear infections that may be the cause of your itchy ears. Bacteria can burrow into the sensitive skin of your ear canal, triggering an infection that leads to swelling, redness, pain, and itching.
The itch of an ear infection often outweighs the pain BY FAR!
This skin condition affects roughly 3% of the world’s population, with 150,000 new cases in the U.S. alone every year. A red rash develops, leading to skin flaking and itching.
It’s not the most common cause of itchy ears, but those who suffer from psoriasis may notice that their ears are itchy as a result of a rash in their ears.
Ear Canal Dermatitis
This is basically an infection of the skin in or around the ear canals. The skin will become red and swollen, and the result is severe itching.
Dermatitis may be the result of an allergic reaction (to metal earrings, beauty products in the ear, etc.), or it may be aural eczematoid dermatitis – a form of dermatitis with no known cause.
This is a highly uncommon cause, but it has been known to happen. If a bug travels into your ear or ears while you sleep, it may get trapped by the ear wax.
The bug’s presence can cause irritation, itching, and even a buzzing sound as it tries to leave. It’s not the most common cause of an itchy ear canal, but it’s worth ruling out.
When your ear itches, you may be tempted to insert a cotton swab, bobby pin, fingertip, or car key into the itchy ear canal. DON’T!
This can scratch the skin, leading to an infection that will only make the ear worse. Your itching problem may be the result of a scratch you caused by inserting something into your ear.
When you use a hearing aid, it may cause water to get trapped inside the ear canal. This can increase your risk of bacterial or fungal infection. Your ears may suffer from an allergic reaction to the hearing aid, leading to swelling and a rash.
If the hearing aid isn’t properly fitted to your ears, it can place pressure on the ear canal, leading to damage of the skin and itching.
These are all things that can cause itchy ears, but before you schedule an appointment with your ear doctor, think about what you’ve done to care for your ears recently. Chances are, the itching is caused by a lack of wax, inserting the wrong thing into your ear, or some minor skin irritation. A few home remedies (as you’ll see below) will clear the problem up.
However, if the problem persists, it’s a good idea to get checked out. The last thing you want is for the sensitive mechanism of your ear to be damaged!
What to Do for Itchy Ears
So, you know why your ears are itching, but what now? What should you do about the problem?
Don’t worry! We’ve got a few awesome home remedies for itchy ears to help you deal with the itch once and for all. Try these out:
If dry ears are the cause of the itch, a bit of lotion can help to moisturize the skin and prevent it from flaking and itching. Soothing gel also does the trick – just make sure that it’s formulated for use in your ears.
- OTC ear drops
Every pharmacy (and most supermarket) will carry medicated ear drops that will help to deal with minor infections and irritations. If the itch is the result of an allergy or environmental cause, the ear drops can deal with the problem.
Warm up some olive or vegetable oil and place a few drops into your ear. This will help to moisturize/hydrate the skin of your ear canal, and it can reduce the irritation of a rash or infection.
- Hydrogen peroxide
If your itch is the result of an infection, hydrogen peroxide will be a good way to get rid of the bacteria or fungi causing the problem. Pour a few drops into your ear and let it bubble away. If you notice pain or discomfort, it may be a sign of infection.
- Water and alcohol
Dilute rubbing alcohol with warm water, and use a soft syringe to squeeze a few drops into your ear. The mixture will kill any bugs, flush out debris, and get rid of any bacteria that could cause infections.
These simple remedies will be a good itchy ear treatment for minor irritations, but they aren’t the solution to more serious problems. If the itch persists after a few applications of these remedies, DO NOT continue treating it at home.
Get to the doctor and get your ear checked out! It will ensure that you can catch problems early on and prevent them from developing complications or worsening into more serious, widespread infections.
Depending on the cause of the itchy ear, your doctor may recommend:
- Antibiotic ointment
This will work to deal with bacterial and fungal infections, including swimmer’s ear, dermatitis of the ear canal, and otitis media.
- Baby oil
This may be recommended if your itching is caused by dry skin. Baby oil is highly effective as a moisturizer, and it can deal with the dry, flaking skin that is driving you crazy.
- Medicated eardrops
If the infection (such as swimmer’s ear) is more serious, stronger medications may be necessary. Prescription medicated eardrops (like Ofloxacin, Ciprofloxacin, and Dexamethasone) will eradicate the bacteria or fungi causing the infection effectively.
These may be recommended if there is severe swelling in the ear.
- Steroidal topical ointment
This will help to reduce inflammation in the ear canal, thanks to the hydrocortisone or betamethasone in the cream.
If you have a fever or there is severe swelling, bleeding, or draining pus from the ear, the doctor may prescribe stronger antibiotics. The antibiotics are meant to reduce infection and clear up whatever is causing the itching.
ALWAYS visit your doctor at the first sign of serious infection: swelling, redness, pain, and heat. If the itch worsens, it could be an indication that something serious is wrong. Your ear is a delicate mechanism, and it’s vital to get any problems treated in order to keep it in good working order.
How to Prevent Itchy Ears
Did you know that a few simple habits and lifestyle changes can help to prevent itchy ears? You won’t need medication if you can prevent the itching in the first place.
1. NEVER insert anything
Yes, it feels wonderful to scratch or clean your ears with a car key, bobby pin, cotton swab, or pen, but that increases the risk of injury.
Avoid inserting objects into your ear, and use your finger (with your fingernails trimmed) to scratch any itches.
2. Use anti-allergenic jewelry
Make sure that your jewelry isn’t causing allergic reactions by using gold, platinum, silver, titanium, or palladium earrings.
3. Use a cotton ball
When bathing, swimming, or taking a shower, place cotton balls in your ears. This will stop water, soap, and shampoo from entering your ear canals, reducing your risk of infections.
4. Clean your ears
A good cleaning may be all you need to deal with a bad itch. Excessive ear wax can make your ears itch like crazy, so getting rid of it will help to reduce your risk of infection and clogs.
5. Wait until your ears are dry
Let your ears air dry before you insert your hearing aid. If there is still water inside your ear canal, the hearing aid will keep it trapped – increasing the chance of developing an infection or causing irritation.
6. Avoid irritants
If your shampoo, soap, conditioner, skin lotion, or bubble bath gel is causing irritation of your ear canal, avoid them like the plague! Use only products that will NOT irritate the sensitive skin in your ear.
7. Reduce exposure to allergens
Close your windows to keep out dust, pollen, insects, and anything that could cause irritation to your ears. If you suffer from allergies, use antihistamines to keep them under control.
Follow this advice, and you’ll be able to prevent ear irritations and infections. Healthy ears are far less likely to develop an itch that will drive you crazy!
“But what about excessive ear wax?” you may ask.
“When I get a buildup of wax, it itches like crazy! If I can’t clean my ears with a cotton swab, what can I do?”
Simple: use the Oto-Tip! This ear-cleaning device is designed to remove excessive ear wax easily and safely. The soft tip will clean out the wax without scratching the sensitive skin of your ear canal.
It will help you prevent itching, ear clogs, and blockage, but in an easy, safe way!