Sometimes the insides of our ears get itchy or pain in the ear—often simply called itchy ear canal, itching ears, or ear itching—and we don’t think much about it.
We might reach for a Q-tip or some other object like a bobby pin or a toothpick to get at the itch and scratch it away. But using anything inside our ears, even a cotton swab, can be dangerous and may cause more damage.
Any break in the skin can lead to bacteria getting in and causing an infection. The most common causes associated with itching in the ear are ear infections (either full-blown or just starting) or a fungus. Allergies can also cause itchy ears on the inside.
What Does it Mean When Your Ear Itches?
There are superstitions for everything, even itchy ear superstitions. Apparently when you have an itchy outer ear or an itchy earlobe, it means that someone is talking about you. If your left ear is itching, it means someone you love is talking about you or someone in general is saying nice things about you. If your right ear is itching, it means the opposite. Apart from these fun superstitions, an itchy ear is definitely trying to tell you something, and the cause of it could likely be one of the reasons below.
What Causes Itchy Ear Canal?
Biologically speaking, an itchy inner ear and an itchy outer ear mean there is either some allergy bothering you, a fungus that has taken root, ear canal dermatitis (scaling, flakiness, and redness), too little ear wax being created, and an ear infection or the beginnings of one. Other reasons for an itchy ear include:
- An outer ear infection (a.k.a. swimmer’s ear): This is an infection in the tube that connects the eardrum to the opening of the ear. When it creeps to the outside and affects the surrounding skin, it’s called malignant otitis externa, an itchy ear infection.
- An earwax blockage: Earwax is normal and needed, which is why doctors strongly recommend against the use of cotton swabs in the ear because they can disrupt the ear’s natural environment, apart from potentially causing damage to the eardrum and canal. You can get itchy ears from wax, so try swiping gently around the inside of the ear with a warm washcloth instead.
- Overuse of hearing aids or headphones: Having a device in your ear for prolonged periods can irritate the surrounding skin and part of the canal, and cause some itching.
- Excess water in the ear: An itchy wet ear canal can happen after showering or swimming.
- Too much wax: A blockage isn’t the only thing that can cause the itch—you can get an itchy ear from canal wax, too.
- Dryness: On the other hand, sometimes there isn’t enough wax in the ear, and that can cause itchiness, much as it would if you had dry skin on your legs or arms. See a doctor before trying to determine how to remedy a dry itchy ear canal.
- Skin problems: Certain skin conditions can cause problems in the ears. You can get an itchy ear canal from eczema, for example.
Other reasons for an itchy ear canal include stress, medications, and extreme heat and cold. An itchy Eustachian tube can also be caused by the same things listed above.
Symptoms of Itchy Ear Canal
Itchy ears can be bothersome and can make you want to scratch inside an awful lot. And worse, it’s a frustrating itch because mostly, you can’t get at it. Some symptoms of itchy ear canal include:
- Tenderness or pain around or in the ear;
- Flaking, crusting skin;
- Drainage coming out of the ear;
- A rash; and
- Redness, swelling, or warmth in or around the ear.
How to Reduce Itchy Ear Canal Naturally
Though bothersome, most cases of itchy ear resolve on their own without interference. Again, avoid inserting any objects into your ear and scratching vigorously. A lot of damage can be done this way, and that will give bacteria an opening to start an infection—scratching the itch this way just causes far more problems than it solves.
If you’re looking for itchy ear canal home treatments, the following remedies are known to work. Try them all and see which one works best for you. However, if there is quite a bit of pain associated with your itchy ears, then go see a doctor first and do not try these home remedies because they could make the situation worse. Use these only if you have mild to moderate pain.
1. White Vinegar and Rubbing Alcohol Mixture
This mixture makes for a good itchy ear treatment. Combine one part white vinegar and one part rubbing alcohol. Tilt your head to the side and, using a teaspoon or a dropper, place a few drops into your ear. Allow it to sit there a few seconds before bringing your head back up and allowing it to drain back out. Wipe the excess with a paper towel. Don’t use this too frequently because the vinegar can dry out your ear, which will make the problem worse.
2. Oils and Garlic
Placing a few drops of olive oil or coconut oil into the ear can alleviate some of the itching and also the infection if one has cropped up. Infuse the olive oil with garlic for antibacterial benefits.
How to Prevent Itchy Ear Canal
Preventing an itchy ear canal is possible by doing a few simple things.
- Avoid using cotton swabs in the ear.
- If your ears are filled with wax, see a doctor to have them cleaned out properly.
- If you get swimmer’s ear, use the appropriate medical solutions (e.g., eardrops) to help get rid of it .
- If allergies are the problem, get them under control by removing allergens or taking antihistamines, if necessary.
- If a hearing aid causing the problem, talk to your fitter about it.
- Avoid prolonged use of earbuds. Give your ears a break, and wipe them down periodically with a cotton pad lightly covered in rubbing alcohol.
When to See the Doctor
If the pain associated with itchy ear canal becomes too much, or if the situation doesn’t clear up on its own after a week or seems to be getting worse, then make an appointment with your doctor because it might be an infection or something else that might need further treatment.
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Sources for Today’s Article:
“Itchy Ears,” UT Health: McGovern Medical Schoolweb site; https://med.uth.edu/orl/online-ear-disease/chapter-15-miscellaneous/itchy-ears/, last accessed March 17, 2016.
“Itching Palm and Other Body Parts: What Does it Mean?” UT Health: Odd Random Thoughts web site; http://oddrandomthoughts.com/itching-palms-and-other-body-parts-what-does-it-mean/, last accessed March 17, 2016.
“What Causes Itchy Ear? 5 Possible Conditions,” Healthline web site; http://www.healthline.com/symptom/itchy-ear, last accessed March 17, 2016.
“5 Home Remedies for Itchy Ear,” Home Remedy Shop web site; http://www.homeremedyshop.com/5-home-remedies-for-itchy-ear, last accessed March 18, 2016.
“How to Treat and Itchy Ear Canal,” Hub Pages web site; http://hubpages.com/health/Itchy-Ear-Canal, last accessed March 18, 2016.