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What does itchy ears mean, why is my ear itchy and what can you do about itchy ears?

By: Paul Harrison Updated: 7th June 2022 in: Hearing Loss Awareness, Latest News, Articles
Why do my ears itch?

Why does the inside of my ear itch?

Itchy ears and what you can do about it

 

Itching of the ears

It is common for most people to get some form of itchy ears.  No matter what age, dry itchy ears are irritating - especially when scratching the affected area causes no relief and probably does more harm than good.

In this article, we focus on the other causes of itchy ears, treatment for itchy ears, and how you can prevent your ear itching in the future.

 

What to do about itchy inner ears

Why does the inside of my ear itch?  You may have itchy ears and are constantly having to scratch right inside your ear canal to relieve the annoyance that it brings.  You've heard the bygone tales of itchy ears being due to someone gossiping about you, this is something entirely different.  Irritated, itchy ears develop for several reasons; however, the chances are it is due to how the sensitive skin in or around your ear is coping in your environment.  

The warmer the environment outside the ear, the environment in the inner ear faces various challenges, as moisture and warmth increase the risk of infection by bacteria. 

 

 Ear Drops For Itchy Ears

 

What does itchy ear mean?

Itchy ears might be a feeling of irritation or tickling, alongside the constant need to scratch the area.  The said area might be red and inflamed or even desquamation, which is when your outer layer of skin begins to replace itself if it is linked to eczema.  Whatever the cause, continuous itching within the ear is not a normal condition, as healthy ears generally do not itch. 

 

Itchy ear canals

That's why it is important to seek medical help to find the root of the problem if you continue to have itchy ears over a long duration.  Confirmation of where the itchiness is will help diagnose the cause.  For instance, the ear itches inside and feels like an itchy inner ear, it itches inside but doesn't appear to be deep inside and feels more like itchy ear canals.  Or perhaps you might have an itchy auricle / pinna (outer ear) if your ears itch on the outside only.

 

What causes itchy ears?

What does it mean if your ear itches?  You may have itchy outer ears (called the pinna) or an itchy inner ear, which may itch deep inside your canal - both are still referred to as the outer ear.  Whatever part of the ear itches, it can leave you feeling simply fed up if the irritation continues.  From experience, it is highly likely that the itching is due to dermatitis, and however mild it might be - you must always visit your local GP and get your itchy ears checked out. 

 Ears Itching Inside And Ringing

Why is my ear so itchy?

The main treatments and causes of itchy ears

 

Below are the main reasons why your ears might itch, itchy ear remedies and what to do about it:

  • Itchy inside ear due to food or seasonal allergies, like hay fever
  • Excessive ear wax or blockage, which might need professional assistance
  • Excessive dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis).
  • Dry ears, psoriasis and/or eczema.
  • Dermatitis from irritants like skin care products or excessive ear cleaning.
  • Irritation caused by hearing aids, hearables or earbuds.

 

 Ears Itching Inside And Ringing

Itching inside ear due to earbuds

Earbuds can cause irritation of the ear, itching in ear canal, cause swelling or bring on an ear infection, especially if you wear earbuds a lot and for extended periods of time.  In some cases, continuing to wear earbuds that are not clean can cause an outer ear infection (or otitis externa) that is also known as swimmer's ear.  Itchy ears may be a symptom of a middle-ear infection too.

Remedy:  Take regular breaks from wearing your earbuds, keep them clean and your ear free of any wax build-up.

 

Itchy ear canal due to hearing aid irritation

Hearing aid domes and earmolds can cause itchy inner ears if they rub against your skin.  Hearing aids can also block your ear canal, which can cause ear wax build-up.  In some rare cases, people can be allergic to the materials of the domes, earmolds or other parts of the hearing aid.

Remedy:  Itchy ears shouldn't stop you from wearing your hearing aids, as it is something that can easily be solved.  Discuss your problems with your audiologist, as they can take a look at your ears and check that your devices are fitted correctly.  They can also recommend various ointments to relieve dry itchy ears, so your hearing aids will feel more comfortable. 

Keeping your ears clean will also help, as it can avoid excess ear wax build-up.  Your audiologist can also talk about how to support your ear health and hygiene going forward.

 

Ear canal itching and flaking caused by seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is generally the most common cause of itchy ears.  This is a skin rash that affects your sebaceous glands that produce oil.  It can appear on your eyebrows, scalp and ears.  It can cause your skin to flake on your scalp, which is commonly called dandruff.  Severe cases will result in your skin being red, sore, and intensely itchy.

There is also a problem with being 'too clean'!  For example, if you are constantly cleaning your skin and using various skin care products there is a chance you can break down the protective layer of your skin that is healthy.  This results in itching.

Remedy:  Book an appointment with your GP and they will decide the best course of action and treatment.  If you have dandruff, switch your shampoo and conditions to a dandruff product or one that is kinder to your skin like some of the organic brands available.

At-home remedies like olive oil and aloe vera can help restore the natural pH of your ear.  There are also some numbing creams that can reduce the symptoms of itching like capsaicin creams.

 

Itchy Inside Ear

Why are my ears so itchy?

Does ear wax build-up effect your ears?

 

Constant itchy ears due to ear wax

There are many symptoms of the over-accumulation of ear wax and ear wax build-up. You may experience some or all of the common symptoms, but it is crucial not to self-diagnose. Only your GP will be able to give you a correct verdict.  Symptoms include hearing loss, earache, ear infections, dizziness, and itchy ears.

Remedy:  Try using home treatments that you can get from your local pharmacy, such as ear drops.  However, if you don’t see results after a week you need to find a local audiologist, as they might put you on a course of steroid ointment or cream to treat the itch.  Click here to read about how to clean your ears safely.

Avoid using cotton swabs, as these can push your earwax further into your ear canal. scratch your skin, puncture the eardrum or cause infection.  Audiologists typically have the ability and equipment needed to safely remove excess ear wax. On a side note, make sure to see your GP if you have sudden hearing loss or pain.

 

Treatment for itchy ears

Firstly, avoid putting anything into your ears to try and relieve your ear from itching, as you can increase your chances of damaging your eardrum and making the inner ear skin worse.  Unfortunately, this also makes the urge to itch even greater.

If your ear canal is inflamed, you may experience an allergic skin reaction in the ear.  This might be a reaction to a new hairspray, shampoo or conditioner.  If you suffer from seasonal allergies, like hay fever, and itching you can find antihistamines from your local pharmacy that can alleviate your symptoms. 

However, if you see any discharge from your ear or experience hearing loss, pain or fever - contact your doctor as soon as possible.

 

Preventing itchy ears

Can you prevent itchy ears?  Stopping putting things in your ear is a good start, such as cotton swabs which can push earwax further into your ear canal or remove the protective layer of wax in your ear.  This can lead to more discomfort.

Always remember to dry your ear thoroughly every time you get them wet, either in the bath, shower, sea or pool.  This reduces the risk of trapped moisture which can cause infections and bring on itchy ears.

Jewellery can also cause itchy ears, as some people can be sensitive to allergic to certain metals.  If you find your jewellery is itching your ears, think about switching the metals.  Two of the main culprits of this are the nickel and cobalt content in costume jewellery.  Both are commonly used as a base to coat and plate with silver and gold.

 

Why Is The Inside Of My Ear Itchy 

Why is the inside of my ear itchy?

Need more support and don't have a local audiologist?

 

When it is time to see a doctor

If you are unable to find out the cause of your itchy ears and have tried at-home treatments, experiencing discomfort, swelling or have any breaking skin - it is vital that you call your GP as soon as possible.  Infections of the ear can be extremely dangerous if left undiagnosed and untreated.  If the symptoms are severe, your doctor might send you to your local ENT department for specialised treatment.

 

If you are experiencing more than just itchy ears

There can be extra symptoms of itchy ears that you need to be aware of and look out for in addition.  If you are experiencing any of the below symptoms, along with your itchy ears, we recommend that you contact your local GP.   They will go through your health history, examine your ears and check for earwax build-up (especially near the eardrum) or any inflammation.

  • A fever
  • Blood or discharge from the ear canal
  • Swelling of the ear - either one or both
  • Loss of hearing

 

Even if you don't have any of the above symptoms and your itchy ears are still causing you discomfort, we would still advise contacting your GP for a hearing health check.  This also rules out any nasty surprises.

 

Hearing aids and itchy ears

If you are wearing hearing aids and you think they are the cause of the itching, you don't have a local audiologist and you are not hearing as well as you should - we can help you.  If you haven't had your hearing tested for a while, this is something we would recommend first, as naturally, your hearing alters over time.

The hearing aids you are wearing now might not be supporting you the way they did when you first started wearing them.  This might mean it is time to check your hearing and upgrade your existing devices.

Call us free and speak to one of our audiologists for free impartial advice about hearing aids and hearing healthcare on 0800 567 7621

 

 

Read Next:  My ears feel blocked

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Paul Harrison
Hearing Aid Advisor
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This article was written by Paul Harrison - Audiology Expert

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert & Founder of Hearing Aid UK

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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