Itchy ears are a common problem that can be annoying, but it is usually not harmful. Treatment for itchy ears depends on the underlying cause and may include ear drops, antibiotics, or syringes. Causes for itchy ears can include:
1. Ear infections
Itchy ears can sometimes be due to an infection or a sign that one is developing. Bacteria and viruses can cause ear infections along with a cold or the flu. Infections can also occur if someone has water trapped in the ear or a buildup of earwax. Chronic ear infections are recurring and may require medical treatment.
2. Dry your ears
The ears generally produce oil and wax to keep the ear clean and healthy. If people clean their ear too much, it can remove the ear wax and dry it out, causing irritation and itching. Other people may not produce enough ear wax naturally, resulting in dry ears. If people have dry ears, they may notice flakes of dry skin around the ear.
3. Food allergies
An allergic reaction to a certain food can make people itchy ears. Common food allergies include:
- Fish and shellfish
People can also experience itching on the rest of the face. Some people develop hives. Oral allergy syndrome is a type of pollen-related allergic reaction that usually causes itching around the mouth, but some people also report itchy ears. Common foods that cause oral allergy syndrome include:
- fruits, such as apples, melons, cherries, kiwi, and bananas
- sunflower seeds
If a person has trouble breathing after eating or coming into contact with an allergen, they may be experiencing anaphylaxis. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
4. Wax lock
A buildup of earwax can make the ears itch and affect a person’s hearing. The ears produce earwax to help keep the ear clean and protect the inner ear from infection. The wax naturally moves out of the ear, carrying dead skin cells and debris, where it will then dry out and fall off over time.
A buildup of earwax can occur if people insert something into the ear canal, which is the small tunnel that connects the outer ear with the middle and inner ear. If people insert a crooked cotton swab, pin, finger, or cloth into the ear, it can irritate the ear canal and push the match back, causing a blockage. A wax blockage can trap bacteria in the ear and cause an infection.
Hearing aids can sometimes itch the ears due to their plastic coating. Some people may have sensitive skin or a mild allergic reaction to the material. People who use hearing aids can also experience itchy ears if water gets trapped behind the hearing aid. If people have itchy ears due to pressure from the hearing aid, a specialist can reshape the hearing aid to make it a better fit.
6. Swimmer’s ear
If water gets trapped in the ear, it can cause a condition called acute external otitis. This condition is also known as swimmer’s ear because it frequently affects swimmers. Bacteria can multiply in the trapped water, causing an infection. Swimmer’s ear can make the ear feel very irritated. If people have swimmer’s ear, they may also notice the following symptoms:
- pain in the ear
- pain in the neck, face, or head
- swelling around the ear
- the ear feels blocked
- ear drainage
- difficulty hearing
7. Allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, occurs when people have an allergic reaction to common airborne particles, such as pollen, dust mites, or animal skin. It can cause itching of the ears, eyes and throat, along with:
- crying eyes
- a runny nose
People can also experience itchy ears due to congestion caused by a common cold. This will generally happen as people recover from the cold.
8. Skin conditions
People who have a skin condition in this area may experience itchy ears. Some people may also notice swollen, scaly patches on or around the ear. Conditions that can cause itchy ears include:
Treatments and home remedies
People can treat some cases of itchy ears with home remedies. If dry skin causes itchy ears, try putting a few drops of olive oil or baby oil in the ear. A drop of oil can also help relieve itching caused by hearing aids. However, the oil should not touch the hearing aid, so it is best to apply the drops before going to bed.
People should also ensure that their hearing aids fit properly in their ear, as a poorly fitted hearing aid can cause irritation. A doctor can also help determine if a person is having an allergic reaction to their hearing aid.
People can clean their outer ear with a cloth, but they should not insert anything into the ear canal. If earwax is blocking the ear, a few drops of over-the-counter baby oil can loosen the wax. If this is not effective, a doctor can inject a saline solution into the ear to remove excess wax. People can also do this procedure at home with an irrigation kit.
If a skin condition, such as psoriasis, causes the ear to be itchy, people may need to use a topical medication to treat the condition. People with swimmer’s ear can relieve itching by applying drops of a slightly acidic solution that consists of half alcohol and half vinegar. This can help dry excess water in the ear.
If this treatment doesn’t work, or if people have another type of ear infection, prescription ear drops or antibiotics may help. People with itchy ears due to allergic rhinitis may need antihistamines to control their condition. If food allergies cause itchy ears, people can follow their diet and symptoms to identify which foods are triggering the symptoms. If home treatments do not provide relief or if people experience more serious symptoms, such as pain or hearing loss, they should see their doctor.