Itchy ears can be annoying, but they’re not usually harmful. It can be tempting to stick something in your ear to try and scratch the itch, but that only causes more problems and furthers the itching. More often than not, there’s an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. There are several causes of itchy ears, and pinpointing and addressing the cause should solve the problem. If you are unable to solve the problem with these remedies, the next step is to visit a professional.
As an ear specialist located in Omaha, Nebraska, we thought it was important to talk about itchy ears and explain what causes them and what you can do to remedy the issue.
Why do my ears itch?
There are lots of things that cause our ears to itch from time to time. You’re probably going to be able to find that one of these reasons is why your ears itch.
Overcleaning causes more problems than it solves. Our ears have sensitive skin and when we stick “unclean” things in there to clean them it can damage the skin. Our ears are actually able to clean themselves really well, and the water that runs over our ears when showering is enough to loosen the excessive ear wax. A Q-tip is not the answer.
Wax buildup often occurs when people try to get earwax out of their ear by shoving a Q-tip in there, thus pushing the ear wax further into the canal. If you have an earache or if your ear feels full, you may have wax buildup. Too much earwax can also cause you to experience hearing loss.
Skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis can contribute to ear itching. Since you are unable to see the inside of your ears, it’s best to see a doctor. These skin conditions are treatable, and a doctor can help.
Certain allergies to foods such as apples, melons, cherries, kiwi, bananas, sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts can cause a reaction that makes our ears itch when eaten. Hay fever or pollen allergies can also make our ears irritated.
Ear and other bacterial infections
Ear infections cause itching, but there are normally other symptoms associated with ear infections. If you feel pain and have discharge, you should see a doctor right away. An untreated ear infection can harm your ears and hearing.
Irritation from jewelry, earbuds and hearing aids
Some people have sensitivity to nickel, a common metal used in earrings. Wearing earrings can lead to itching, but OTC hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines can help. Try to wear jewelry made of surgical grade steel, gold or silver. If you wear earbuds frequently while listening to music or talking on the phone, you may notice they rub against the inside of your ear, creating an itch.
If your hearing aids are causing itching, it’s best to consult a professional for assistance. If it’s caused by pressure from the hearing aid, a professional can remold it so it fits better. Water can also get trapped behind the hearing aid, causing itching. Some people are also allergic to the plastic coating and may have a mild reaction.
Swimmer’s ear or excessive moisture
Water getting trapped in the ear can be a culprit of itching. Swimmer’s ear can also lead to an infection due to bacteria forming in the trapped water. It’s important to see a doctor if you’re experiencing difficulty hearing, inflammation around the ear or pain in the ear.
Stress and anxiety
It may seem strange, but when you’re experiencing stress and anxiety, your ears can itch. Anxiety-related itching is called a psychogenic itch. This can lead to habits that include itching the arms, legs, face, scalp and ears.
Remedies for itchy ears
There are a few home remedies for itchy ears, but we recommend talking to your doctor before putting any ear drops or oils in your ear. Your doctor may recommend an antibiotic ointment, baby oil, a steroid topical ointment such as hydrocortisone cream, over the counter ear drops or a diluted solution of rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. If you have an infection, you’ll likely be prescribed an antibiotic.
You can use an ear syringe filled with one of the above options to flush the ear. You can also use a hair dryer on low heat to dry ears out after they get wet. After showering, use a clean towel to dry the outside of your ears to prevent itchy ears. We also recommend wearing earplugs while swimming.
See an ear specialist
An ear specialist will use an otoscope to examine the skin inside your ear and better figure out what’s going on. If you need earwax removed, they can also assist. Scheduling regular ear cleaning may be a good idea. Itchy ears should go away in a few days, but if it doesn’t or if you’re also experiencing drainage, a bad smell, ear pain or noticeable inflammation, you should seek treatment right away because those are signs of another problem. Contact us today with any concerns!