Why Do My Ears Itch? Causes for Itchy Ears

What are itchy ears?

Itchy ears are a common problem that can be bothersome but are not usually harmful. An itchy ear usually takes place in the ear canal (the tube that connects your outer ear to your eardrum) and happens to people of all ages. Treatment how you can get relief for itchy ears depends on the underlying cause on what is making you scratch. No matter the cause of your itch, it’s never a good idea to stick any objects in your ears. You could damage your ear canal, the eardrum, or the tiny bones that help you hear. Remember, A healthy ear is a self-cleaning organ and does not normally require manual or invasive cleaning.

Why do my ears itch?

There are a number of reasons why your ears may itch. Here are 7 of the most common reasons.

  • Ear wax buildup - The ears produce earwax to help keep the ear clean and protect the inner ear from infection. But too much ear wax can make the ear itch. Normally, earwax naturally moves out of the ear, carrying dead skin and debris, where it will then dry out and fall away over time. Do not be tempted to try to remove the buildup with a cotton swab, bobby pin, finger, or twisted cloth into your ear, it can irritate the ear canal and push earwax farther back, causing a blockage. This blockage can trap bacteria the eventually will cause an infection and the ear to itch.  Instead, try over-the-counter ear drops that break up the wax. If that doesn’t help, see your doctor. They can use a special tool to safely remove built-up wax.
  • Ear Infections - Itchy ears can sometimes be due to an infection or a sign that one is developing. Bacteria and viruses can cause ear infections usually when you have a cold, the flu, or allergies. Infections can also occur if someone has water trapped in their ear “swimmer’s ear” can develop, this happens when water stays in your ear after you swim. Too much moisture wears away your ear canal’s natural layer of defense against germs. To stop the itch from swimmer’s ear you’ll need to treat the infection. Your doctor can generally prescribe medicated drops to be placed in the ear canal to treat the infection. Ear infections caused by other issues may need a course of antibiotics. 
  • Allergies - The skin inside your ears can itch because of an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction to a certain foods can cause people to have itchy ears. Beauty products like hair spray or shampoo could produce an allergic reaction. So can products that have nickel, like earrings. Plastic, rubber, or metal you put inside your ears, like earbuds or a hearing aid, may also cause an allergic reaction. In most cases, you don’t need treatment. If the reactions persist you may wish to speak to your doctor and he/she may test you to see how severe your allergy is. 
  • Skin Conditions – Individuals who have a skin condition in this area might experience itchy ears. Some people might also notice inflamed, scaly patches on or around the ear. Conditions that may cause itchy ears include:
  1. psoriasis
  2. dermatitis
  3. eczema

You can usually treat these problems with topical medications or ear drops. In severe cases, you may also need to take steroid pills.

  • Hearing aid allergies - Hearing aids can sometimes cause itchy ears because of their plastic coating. Some people may have sensitive skin or a mild allergic reaction to the material. People wearing hearing aids may also experience itchy ears if water gets trapped behind the hearing aid. If people have an itchy ear due to pressure from the hearing aid, a specialist can remold the hearing aid so that it fits better, or make the mold material out of an antiallergic material.
  • Allergic rhinitis - allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, happens when people have an allergic reaction to common particles found in the air, such as pollen, dust mites, or animal fur. It can cause itchiness in the ears, eyes, and throat, along with watery eyes, a runny nose, headaches, sneezing, and congestion. People may also experience itchy ears due to congestion caused by a common cold. This will usually pass as people recover from the cold.
  • Dry ears - Ears usually produce oil and earwax to keep the ear clean and healthy. If people clean their ears too much, it can remove the wax from the ear and dry it out, causing irritating itchiness. There are individuals who may not produce enough ear wax naturally, resulting in dry ears. Dry ears are also commonly the result of over-cleaning. This removes the earwax and natural oils that are both important for maintaining good ear health. If people have dry ears, they may notice flakes of dry skin around their ear. The goal of any treatment plan for dry ears is often to stop any itching first and then to re-establish a healthy moisture balance in the ear. Over-the-counter steroid creams or ear drops combine an oily component with an anti-inflammatory steroid. Together, these relieve the itching and can help restore the moisture balance in cases of dry ears that are not infectious. Steroid creams or drops should only be used as a temporary treatment, because long-term use can cause the skin to thin and to become fragile. Depending on the underlying cause, a doctor may prescribe antifungal eardrops or oral antibiotics.
  • Bugs in ears - It's unsettling to consider, but at times, an insect may accidentally enter a person's ear. If it remains inside for a prolonged period, it can cause inflammation in the ear canal. Moreover, beyond the initial inflammation, the presence of bugs in the ear can give rise to various complications, including persistent itching, discomfort, and a sensation of movement in the ear.

Should You Clean Your Ears?

Ideally, no; your ear canals shouldn’t need cleaning. But if too much earwax builds up and starts to cause symptoms or it keeps your doctor from doing a proper ear exam, you might have something called cerumen impaction. This means earwax has completely filled your ear canal and it can happen in one or both ears. Just use a washcloth. You also can try putting a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, or glycerin in your ear to soften the wax. Or you can use an over-the-counter wax removal kit.

  • Ear candles. Studies show they’re not effective and they can even cause injury. These hollow candles are supposed to be inserted into the ear canal and lit at the exposed end, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found they can cause burns and even pierce the inside of the ear.

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