An itchy ear may not seem like a big health problem but anyone who has ever experienced this symptom knows how annoying and irritating it can be. Many people are tempted to scratch the affected area by using a q-tip, a finger, or some other foreign object. This is a bad idea because it is possible to do harm to the canal or can even lead to a serious infection. Itchy ears can be caused by a variety of things and there are ways to get relief without risking harm to the inner ear.
One common cause of an itch in the ear canal is allergies, especially seasonal allergies. The problem occurs when the release of the allergy related chemical histamine occurs. This same chemical causes other symptoms commonly associated with allergies such as watery eyes and a runny nose. Some individuals are sensitive to certain shampoos, hair sprays, and other personal care products. To relieve symptoms, sufferers can take over-the-counter antihistamines available in any local pharmacy.
Wax build-up or a lack of wax inside the canal can cause itching. Inadequate amounts of wax can dry out the ear canal and irritate the tissue. This often happens with swimmers or in individuals whose bodies fail to produce enough wax. To treat this condition, use a cotton swab to apply a single drop of olive oil inside each ear canal.
Excessive amounts of wax can cause decreased hearing. Individuals with this condition often feel like the ears are plugged up. Pharmacies carry various solutions that will loosen the wax and allow it to be flushed out. For severe cases, a physician’s visit may be necessary to have the wax removed.
Various conditions that cause red, irritated skin can affect the ears the same way they do other parts of the body. These conditions may include seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema. Individuals suffering with psoriasis can experience reduced hearing as well as a blockage of the ear canal and scaling. In such cases, it may be necessary to see a doctor for professional irrigation.
Fungal infections can cause itching inside the ear canals. Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, is a common infection caused by moisture accumulating inside the ears. Individuals prone to this condition must take care to keep the ears dry. Symptoms are treatable with an anti-fungal medication.
Bug bites or even bugs themselves can cause itchiness. Sometimes a bug finds its way into the ear canal at night and then cannot escape. This can cause irritation, obnoxious sounds, and itching. Sometimes irrigating the ear with warm water will kill the bug and wash it out. If the problem persists, individuals should seek professional medical treatment.
Most conditions will clear up without medical intervention. To treat symptoms, the goals are to rid the body of the underlying skin condition or infection causing the problem and to stop the itching. Some physicians will prescribe ear drops containing hydrocortisone and an antibiotic. The hydrocortisone reduces the swelling and stops the skin from itching. The antibiotic attacks the bacteria responsible for the infection.
Various home remedies may be helpful for treating to mild-to-moderate infections. One treatment involves combining one part white vinegar and one part rubbing alcohol and flushing the affected ear with the solution. This should be done no more than twice per day because overuse can cause the ear to dry out and make the symptoms worse. Coconut and olive oil are effective natural treatments and can take the place of ear drops. Garlic infused olive oil is useful for treating a fungal infection.
Individuals prone to this problem can take certain precautions to reduce the risk of developing symptoms. Placing a small piece of a cotton ball over the entrances to both ears while showering and bathing will keep out hair products, soap and excessive water. Frequent swimmers should wear a cap or headband to help the ears stay dry and less susceptible to bacteria and fungus. To prevent wax from building up in the canals, apply a small amount of olive oil to each canal two to three times a week before going to sleep.
Itchy ears rarely indicate a serious health problem but the tickling sensation is irritating and distracting. Scratching may relieve symptoms temporarily but it also causes greater damage to the affected area, which is already red, sore, and flaking. Another reason to avoid scratching is because it can cause scarring to occur. It will be necessary to seek professional medical treatment if home remedies fail to relieve mild to moderate symptoms.