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Itchy ears: Causes and treatment

Last update on Apr, 26, 2023

Are your hearing aids making your ears itch? If so, there’s no need to worry; itchy ears are a fairly common issue, particularly among first-time hearing aid wearers. The skin of the ear canal is quite delicate and can be extremely sensitive even to mild irritations, which can make it difficult to get used to the feeling of your hearing aid.

If you suspect your hearing aid is causing discomfort and are wondering how to help itchy ears, there are some steps you can take to alleviate the problem.

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Ruling out any other cause of itchy ears

As you consider how to stop the ear from being itchy, keep in mind that the first step is identifying the cause. While new hearing aids can cause itchy ears when you are acclimating to them, it is best to ensure that something else isn’t causing the problem. Skin problems, such as eczema or too dry of ears, can also lead to itching - which is then aggravated, but not caused by your hearing aid.

Causes: Why are your ears itchy?

Here are some other common itchy ear causes to consider:

These often have multiple symptoms like pain and discharge, with itching as a common early sign.

For some people, certain foods can trigger reactions such as itchy ears. If you have symptoms of a new allergy, speak with a medical professional to learn about the cause and treatment options for an itchy ear canal.

If you’ve asked yourself, “Why are my inner ears always itchy?” Wax could be the answer. Buildup can be caused by using cotton swabs in the ear, pushing the wax deeper in the canal rather than pulling it out.

So, if you have a buildup of earwax, don't be tempted to remove it with a cotton swab. It's never a good idea to stick anything into your ear canal, as you will only push the earwax deeper. Ear drops are a far better solution to help dissolve the earwax. Be careful not to remove too much earwax, or a small amount can cause dry ears and consequently lead to itching as well.

For people with sensitivity to environmental elements like pollen, certain times of  the year can trigger a response from the immune system, sometimes causing itchy ears as a side effect.

Materials in earphones, soaps, shampoos, makeup, and even some metals in earrings can all trigger itchy ears. Nickel, for example, is often among the most common culprits of skin allergies and can cause itching, redness, dry patches or even swelling.

This type of irritation is usually temporary (lasting 12 to 48 hours after contact) and resolves with discontinued use of the cosmetics and/or jewelry with metals that triggered the allergic reaction and itching. You can also apply over-the-counter creams (such as hydrocortisone) and oral antihistamines to help calm the affected area.

External otitis, or Swimmer's Ear, is often caused by bacterial growth due to water trapped in the ear. It can also occur from abrasive objects like cotton swabs irritating the skin. Itching can occur early on and become worse in time if left untreated.

This condition can also be a result of fingers or cotton swabs inserted into the ear, which could damage the delicate skin in the ear canal and cause an infection. Among the symptoms of otitis externa, in addition to itching, there may be pain, drainage and temporary hearing loss. Consult a hearing care specialist who will clean your ear and can prescribe adequate drug therapy. Avoid self-cleaning or self-medication.

Particularly in the case of a cold, nasal congestion and stagnation of mucus can lead to increased irritation in the nose, ears and throat.

Stress can be a driver of psychosomatic itching, related to increased reactivity of the body to stressful conditions.

Some drugs, including antidepressants, local anesthetics and estrogen progestogens can cause widespread itching as a side effect.
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If you aren't sure what's causing your itchy ears be sure to consult your doctor or our specialists.

Skin diseases, conditions and disorders causing itchy ears

Skin conditions that can cause itchy ears include:

Psoriasis is a skin disease that falls under the category of dermatitis. It manifests itself as superficial reddening of the skin and roundish plaques covered with white flaky patches. In some cases, these lesions can cause itching and become very annoying.

Eczema is the clinical manifestation of  dermatitis, which causes the appearance of various skin issues (such as redness, vesicles, and cracks), which can affect any part of the body, causing itching.

Shingles in the ear, also called Herpes Zoster Oticus, is an inflammation of some cranial nerves caused by the Varicella-zoster virus. This type of infection is also called Ramsay-Hunt syndrome and should be diagnosed by a medical professional.

Check your hearing aid fit

If, however, your hearing aid is the cause of itchy ears, chances are it’s because the fit of the hearing aid isn’t quite right. A poor fit can sometimes leave gaps between the surface of the hearing aid and your skin where moisture can collect, thus leading to damp, itchy ears. Furthermore, your body can sometimes interpret a poorly fitted hearing aid as an invasive object and may try to reject it through an itchy, inflammatory reaction. To correct the fit of your hearing aid and stop ear itching, visit your hearing professional. They’ll also be able to talk with you more about treatment for itching ears.

Don’t be too clean

You may be surprised to learn that there is such a thing as being “too clean” when it comes to your ears. Excessive cleaning can strip your ear canal of its natural oils, which keep it healthy and protect it against irritants (like your hearing aid). If you are in the habit of cleaning your ears every day, try holding off for several days to give your ears time to recover. You can also try putting a drop or two of olive oil in your ears every other day to keep the skin supple and prevent itchy ears. 

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An itchy inner ear is often associated with irritation of the mucous membranes in the throat. This relates to why the skin inside your ears can itch when you experience an allergic reaction.

An ear canal infection is a common cause of an itchy ear canal. If bacteria makes its way into your ear canal and causes an infection, it can infiltrate the skin and lead to the spread of fungi. Inflammation of the ear canal (otitis externa) generally only affects the part of the ear in front of the eardrum. 

An itchy outer ear and any itchy irritation around the ear may be due to skin diseases such as Psoriasis, Neurodermatitis or a skin fungus.

Such skin diseases are more common around the scalp. It is also possible that the skin is only affected by over-cleaning the area. The overuse of skin care products to clean your face can destroy the healthy protective layer of the skin leading to additional irritation and itching.

The symptoms of itchy ears and an itchy throat are often related to allergic phenomena (seasonal or food allergies) or to colds.

Treatment for itchy ears

Remedies for itchy ears vary according to the causes. In general, for the different types of itching, it is possible to apply capsaicin-based creams, a substance capable of numbing the nerve endings, or moisturizing creams, particularly those including starch glycerol. In the event of an allergic reaction, it is advisable to contact a doctor, who, after careful analysis, may prescribe the most suitable antihistamine.

Following are various treatment options based on the area experiencing irritation:

  • Itchy outer ear: Try a skin ointment. Strong moisturizing, light cortisone ointments or creams against skin fungus can help. It’s best to seek the advice of a doctor or pharmacist to find the most effective skin ointment for your condition.
  • Itchy ear canal: Ear ointments for itching and ear drops, sometimes including antibiotics, can be prescribed for an ear canal infection. However, antibiotics only make sense if there is a strong bacterial infestation. In milder cases, home remedies can also help.
  • Itchy inner ear: Itchy inner ears are often the result of inflammation in the mucous membrane of the throat. Throat drops and nasal spray can help treat viruses in the nose and throat area.

Olive oil and aloe vera can be useful natural remedies for itchy ears. Alternatively, you can use cortisone-based creams and, in cases where the irritation is caused by an allergic reaction, antihistamines. However, as itching in the ears is a symptom, in order to eliminate it, you ultimately need to treat the precipitating cause. In the case of an ear infection, it is important to consult a medical professional before applying home remedies.

As annoying as itching in the ears is, it is crucial to avoid inserting sharp objects into your ear to try to relieve the itching. Not only could the eardrum rupture or get damaged, but the skin in the ear canal can be easily scratched. Since bacterial infections often cause itchy ears, even minor scratches can make it easier for the bacteria to penetrate the skin.

Avoid the use of cotton swabs and Q-Tips as well. In fact, they could cause you to accidentally push earwax further into your ear, leading to pain and other ear problems.

It is advisable to schedule a visit with a hearing care professional in case of:

  • Persistently itchy ears (lasting more than a few days);
  • Difficulty identifying the cause of increasingly itchy or irritated ears;
  • Itchy ears accompanied by ear pain.

In these cases, the doctor may prescribe tests (ex: blood tests, diagnostic imaging) aimed at identifying the cause of itchy ears.

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FAQs on itchy ears

Ear drops may help in the case of itchy ears. If your ear irritation is due to dryness, the application of a few drops of olive oil or aloe vera in the ear canal can help restore the natural pH and moisten it.

If an ear infection has developed, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or ear drops to treat the infection. Once the infection is resolved, the itching in the ears should also disappear.

Be sure to consult a hearing care specialist to identify the best ear drop solution for the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Especially in spring, with the onset of seasonal allergies, many people wonder whether itchy ears are a potential symptom of Covid-19. However, at the moment, no study can confirm the correlation between the two.

Decreased estrogen levels related to menopause can cause skin itching, tenderness, irritation and the mucus membranes within the inner ear to dry out. Ear problems related to this condition include itchy ears.

Using hydrogen peroxide inside the ear is risky. For example, using too much hydrogen peroxide can irritate the skin inside the ear. This is why it is always best to consult your doctor before taking any steps on your own and using it.

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