5 Common Causes of Itchy Ears

May 7th 2016

Itchy ears can be caused by a variety of factors that range from mild irritation to bacterial infections. Understanding the potential causes of itching ears and seeking medical treatment in the event of unexplained or chronic symptoms can help to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment, allowing for healthy recovery and relief from uncomfortable itching.

Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer's ear is an infection that develops in the outer ear canal. The infection occurs when moisture becomes trapped inside the ear and creates an optimal environment for bacteria. Swimmer's ear often develops after swimming in lakes with dirty water, and it can also occur as a result of injuries to the skin of the ear canal that allow bacteria to enter and multiply. In addition to itching, symptoms of swimmer's ear include intense pain, especially when pulling on the ear lobe, discharge and muffled hearing. Swimmer's ear is commonly treated with antibiotic ear drops.

Hearing Aid or Ear Bud Irritation

Hearing aids and earbuds can cause itching inside the ears in two different ways. First, the earpieces can cause fluid to build up inside the ears, which in turn can cause an allergic reaction. Second, earbuds or hearing aids that don't fit properly can increase pressure inside the ear, leading to itching and irritation.

Excessive Ear Wax

Excessive ear wax buildup is another common condition that causes itching and discomfort in the ear canal. Additional symptoms of ear wax buildup include pressure and slightly muffled hearing in the affected ear. Ear wax buildup is often remedied by holding a warm compress against the ear to loosen the blockages. In certain cases, severely impacted ear wax must be removed by a medical professional.

Dry Skin

Dry skin inside the ears occurs when the ears do not produce an adequate amount of wax. When the skin of the ear canal is overly dry, itching and inflammation are common. Individuals with overly dry ears may also notice flaky, dry skin around the outside of the ear canal. The condition may require treatment with lubricating drops, so it is always important to seek medical attention if symptoms occur.

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is an upper respiratory condition that develops when the immune system overreacts to allergens such as pet dander, dust mites and plant pollens. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include itching ears, itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing and nasal congestion. Allergic rhinitis is most often treated with antihistamine medications and allergy shots that help the immune system and build up a tolerance to the allergens.

Conclusion

Itching of the ears, also referred to as pruritus, is a condition that causes a tickling or itching sensation inside the ear canal or on the external portion of the ear. One of the most natural reactions to itching ears is to scratch the affected areas with a cotton swab, fingernail or small object. However, over-scratching can worsen the condition by injuring the skin and increasing the risk of infection. In many cases, itching ears can be treated with natural remedies, but there is always the chance that an infection may be present, so it is best to consult with a medical professional to ensure the underlying cause is correctly diagnosed and the itching is dealt with appropriately.

Sources

Healthline.com "What causes itchy ear? 5 possible conditions" http://www.healthline.com/symptom/itchy-ear
Healthgrades.com "What is ear itching?" http://www.healthgrades.com/symptoms/ear-itching
NHS.uk "Otitis externa - causes" http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Otitis-externa/Pages/Causes.aspx
MayoClinic.org "Swimmer's ear" http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/swimmers-ear/basics/definition/con-20014723
Livestrong.com "Dry skin on the ear canal" http://www.livestrong.com/article/304662-dry-skin-on-the-ear-canal/

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