About Itching Inside the Ear:
An itch in the inner canal of ear can be the most irritating or annoying thing, as the space is too narrow for anyone to scratch unlike the arms or legs. And scratching the ear is not a safe option, as the internal ear or the duct of ear is a very sensitive area and a minor cut can cause damage to ear or to the tympanic membrane. There can be several reasons for the itch inside of your ear starting from skin sensitivity to something as big as infection in the ear. There are certain irritants, which may cause itching in the ear. Let us discuss various causes, how to find the underlying factor and ways to treat itching within the ear.
There are natural remedies or home remedies, which are easy and safest methods to treat the itch inside the ear; however, if you feel pain and the itch is not stopping after trying the natural remedies, it is advised to consult a physician and follow a proper treatment line to get rid of the itching within the ear. It is always a best option to consult a physician who would find the underlying cause for the itching ear and develop a treatment line, which would prevent it from occurring in the future.
Causes of Itching Inside the Ear
Dry Skin Inside The Ear
Ear wax keeps the inside of ear lubricated and saves the ear from itching and many other infections.(1) However, if your ear does not produce enough wax or if no wax is produced inside the ear, then you may experience itching inside the ear.
Sometimes, flakes can be seen coming out of the ear because of dry skin. Some people have a habit of cleaning the ear daily or very frequently. Putting cotton swabs into your ears can inflame your ear canal and can make ear canal very itchy.(2) Bobby pins, matchsticks, fingers and paper clips are very dangerous to be put inside the ears and can scratch the skin inside your ears leaving it inflamed, making it easy for bacteria to enter and cause an infection.(2) And sometimes all this stuff goes deep inside the ear and can damage the tympanic membrane as well.
This might also lead to depletion of wax inside the ear, which could lead to flaking and itching inside the ear. Wax also keeps the ear free from bacteria and saves from infection as well.(1)
Dermatitis of the Internal Ear/Ear Canal or Other Infections
Dermatitis or infection of the ear canal and internal ear occurs when the skin around the canal gets inflamed because of several reasons.
The reason for inflammation can be from simplest of things like from the earrings you are wearing in your pierced ears.(3, 4) Another reason for inflammation can be infections, which can range from bacterial, viral or fungal infections of the ear.
Another reason for dermatitis or skin infection inside the ear, which results in an itch, is an allergy to the shampoo or the beauty products being used like hair spray or other hair care products.(5)
Sometimes, the ear starts itching when you are suffering from cold and cough. Some people get allergic reactions, which can ultimately affect the ears as well.
There is another kind of dermatitis, which is called eczematoid dermatitis, which can cause itching in the ear.(6) The reason for occurrence of this type of dermatitis is not known.
Excessive Water Inside The Ear
Sometimes, water gets inside the ear while we are bathing and this water that stays inside the ear after bathing causes itching inside the ear.(6)
Swimmers get this kind of ear itching very frequently. When water stays inside the ear after the swim, it causes itching in the ear canal.(7) The excessive moisture inside the ear damages the ear canal’s lining, which act as a natural defense against the germs and bacteria.
To put an end to this itching inside the ear, you must visit an ENT physician to find out the underlying cause of the infection to get it treated.
Sometimes over the counter drugs cure the infection and other times in case of severe ear infections, antibiotics will be required to get the infection treated. Swimmers are advised to wear proper head gear and try to avoid water entering your ear, or else they can find ways to get the water out of your ears after a swim to unclog the ears.(7)
Otitis Externa or Outer Ear Infection
Otitis Externa is the inflammation of the external ear canal.(6) This infection leads to itching and sometimes in case of severe infection; it might lead to pain in the ear. Inflammation of the ear canal can be caused by several reasons, which can include infection, allergies or other possible reasons. Symptoms of inflammation in the ear occur with several symptoms like itching and sometimes hearing can also be affected and it can be accompanied by discharge and pain.(6)
When you start feeling pain, it is advisable to consult a physician before trying any treatments yourself at home. Sometimes, infection of the external ear or skin outside the ear also leads to itching inside the ear as well. It can also lead to redness and swelling of the external canal of your ear and in some cases and should be treated accordingly.
Usage of Hearing Aid (12)
There are several ways in which a hearing aid can cause itching and infection of the ear canal and can lead to itching and pain inside the ear. A few of them are mentioned below:
There is a polish on the exterior or external surface of the ear piece of a hearing aid and when this polish comes in contact with the skin, it can cause itching. And when this ear piece is worn for a long time, it might cause inflammation at the point of contact as well.
Persistent use of hearing aids can also cause water to get trapped in the ears and when this water is not taken out, it leads to an itch or might even trigger bacterial infection inside the ear.(8) And sometimes lead to an allergic reaction to the hearing aid also.
Sometimes the poorly fitting or ill fitting hearing aids can also put pressure on the point of contact or certain other areas of the ear, which can leading to itching in the ear or can cause inflammation as well.
Psoriasis Can Cause Itching Within The Ear (9)
Psoriasis is a skin disorder, which usually leads to a buildup of skin or cells on the infected area and there is a presence of red rash on the infected area. In ear, it causes the dead skin cells to rapidly accumulate and create rough, dry and red patches or scales on the affected area that can itch and there may or may not be associated pain. Psoriasis can occur on visible as well as invisible parts of the body, such as arms or inside the ears.
If any individual is already affected by skin conditions, such individuals are more prone to get infection inside the ear canal as well. Sometimes, infections can be treated with local treatment and at other times systemic treatment is required to treat these infections. In severe cases, it is essential to consult a specialist to get the infection treated.
Excessive Earwax Buildup (10)
Though depletion of ear wax causes skin to get dry, but presence of excessive ear wax can also lead to itching and pain in the ear. Ear wax consists of the dead skin cells and is considered as body’s mechanism to keep dirt out of the ears and to prevent any dirt from infecting the ear. But excessive wax when accumulated inside the ear can lead to itching and sometimes it can also lead to infection of the ear. If left like that and proper cleaning of the ear is not done, it causes hearing problems as well.
However, appropriate methods should be chosen to get rid of ear wax. Do not get tempted to put cotton swabs inside the ear, as it pushes the wax inside instead of taking it out. You can otherwise use over-the-counter ear drops, which soften the ear wax and makes it easy to remove. However, if this method does not work out for you, consulting a physician is the best suggested method.
Allergies Can Cause Itching Inside The Ear
People can have various allergies that can lead to ear infections. These allergies can either be skin allergies or allergies to food. You can be allergic to pollen, dust or hay, which can lead to itching inside the ear.
Certain foods i.e. – fruits, vegetables or nuts can cause allergies in some individuals. These allergies can vary from one individual to another.
Or, you can also get itching inside the ears during a specific season and this seasonal allergy can also vary from one individual to another.
Although if the itching sensation is very high and is not going after trying various home remedies, you must visit a physician, since it is really necessary to find the allergen and get rid of the itching. The feeling of itchiness usually goes away as soon as the allergen is removed. People who have severe food allergies may need to have an epinephrine auto-injector.
In extreme cases, the itchiness in the ear can be a reason of difficulty in hearing.
Fungal Infections Causing Ear Itching (11)
We have been talking and hearing about bacterial infections of the ear only. However, fungal infections also affect the ear and cause itching inside the ear accompanied by many other symptoms. Fungal infections are not as common as bacterial infections of the ear, but when they affect the ear they prove to be more troublesome than the bacterial infections. These infections affect people suffering from diabetes and people with weak immune system.
Symptoms of Itchy Ears
The most common symptom of itching within the ears is an unstoppable urge to scratch the ear with finger or an object. Since, it is difficult to scratch the inside of ear with a finger; people tend to use sharp objects inside the ear, which end up damaging the ear and the eardrum instead of treating the itch.
Ear itching is mostly accompanied by fever, swelling or inflammation inside the ear, a clear fluid or pus draining from the ear. In some of the cases, people might feel difficulty in hearing as well.
In some cases when an ear itch is felt, it is generally treated with home remedies. But in severe cases where there is drainage of blood or pus from the ear, you must seek medical treatment. Consulting a physician is essential in such extreme cases to get rid of the underlying cause of the itching inside the ear.
Other cases where physician consultation is essential are the cases where you feel hearing loss suddenly.
Treatment of Itchy Ears
As discussed above, itching inside the ears is a result of the damage to the skin inside of the ear. It is essential to identify the underlying cause or the allergen to treat the itch in the ear.
If your itchy ears are the result of an allergic reaction, you must refrain from using any products that could have potentially caused the irritation. These products can be earrings or any metal worn in the ear or any shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash or any other personal care product.
One of the very important thing to do is to stop cleaning the ear with cotton balls, cotton swabs, paper clips and bobby pins, as these might damage the inside skin of the ear leading to inflammation instead of treating the itch inside.
You are also advised not to put any eardrops or ointment inside your ear without consulting a physician to avoid any irritation or inflammation to the ear. It is always recommended to use the drops or ointment prescribed by the physician.
Physicians would generally prescribe an antibiotic ointment to get rid of any infection inside the ear which is causing the itching.
Other treatment options for itchy ear include baby oil to soften the skin, steroid topical ointment, which relieves inflammation. The steroids most commonly prescribed by physicians are 1% hydrocortisone cream or 0.1 % betamethasone cream or a diluted solution of rubbing alcohol, acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide.
If you are a regular swimmer, you must use a solution, which dries the excess water in your ear canal.
If you experience excess earwax production, you may want to keep your earwax at a manageable level by using doctor-approved approaches, such as eardrops or a bulb syringe.
If the reason for inflammation or infection is found out to be the ear knob of hearing aid, you are recommended to always clean the ear knob with alcohol before putting in your ear every day. This will avoid infection and inflammation of your ear and thus prevent itching inside the ear.
Also, if your ear is already inflamed and you see pus coming out of the ear, make sure that you do not put cotton swabs or water inside your ear and rather consult a physician who can with proper diagnostic methods find the underlying cause and prepare a proper treatment line for the ear infection.
There are several cures and preventive methods to prevent itching in ears from developing and also many natural or home remedies to get rid of itchy ears. These home remedies are discussed below:
Home Remedies for Relieving Itching Inside the Ears
Warm Olive Oil (13)
Warm oil is one of the oldest and best ways to get rid of an itchy ear and it also help in removing excessive ear wax. Warm oil is one of the ancient methods that people have been using at home to get rid of every small ear problem and specially an itchy ear.
Method of using warm oil for itchy ear
- Warm up a teaspoon of olive oil in a bowl on the stove or in the microwave.
- Test a few drops of oil on the back of your hand to make sure it is not very hot to be put inside the ear.
- You can use a dropper to put a few drops of oil inside your ear canal.
- You will realize the wax softened inside your ear. When it is softened inside your ear, wax will come out in the outer or external ear. You can remove the wax gently from the external ear with a cotton swab.
Garlic Oil (14)
Garlic oil is particularly used when you have a minor infection inside your ear with itchiness. The major component of garlic is allicin.(15) This biologically active component of garlic allows the infections to heal.
Method of using Garlic oil for Itchy Ear and Ear Infection:
- Crush 2 garlic cloves and keep it aside for a few minutes to let the allicin form.
- Cook the crushed garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil for 2-3 minutes.
- Make sure that you do not burn the garlic in oil as the major purpose here is to infuse the garlic with olive oil.
- Strain the olive oil and garlic and keep it aside until it is lukewarm or cold enough to be put inside the ear.
- Lie on one side and use a dropper to put 3-4 drops of this garlic oil inside the ear.
- Stay on your side for around 1 minute to let the oil work inside your ear.
- Use the garlic oil 3 to 4 times daily to cure your itchy ear.
Water and Vinegar
According to the researches, apple cider vinegar changes the pH of the ear canal while creating an environment where bacteria and viruses cannot sustain. So, if the underlying cause of your itchy ears is a result of an ear infection, you can use a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to cure the ear itchiness.
Method of using Water and Apple Cider Vinegar for Itchy Ears(16):
- Mix one part Apple Cider Vinegar with one part water.
- Make sure the solution is not too cold or warm to put inside the ear. The solution should be at body temperature.
- Using a bulb syringe, gently rinse your ear.
- Lie on one side and use a dropper to put 3-4 drops of this mixture inside of ear.
- Stay on your side for around 1 minute to let the mixture work inside your ear.
Warm compresses can also help in relieving itchiness in the ear.
How to Use Warm Compresses for an Itchy Ear
- Soak a towel or washcloth in warm water and squeeze or wring it to remove excessive water.
- Place the warm towel and compress over your ear for 10 minutes.
- This gives relief to your itchy ear.
- Also, this might loosen the ear wax inside your ear and if you notice some loosened wax around the outer ear, you can remove that gently with a cotton swab.
At the end of the discussion, you should always understand that while home remedies can help relieve minor symptoms of an itchy ear, it is always recommended to consult an ENT physician if the symptoms get worse or if you start feeling pain; or if there is water or pus draining out of your ear.