Our ears are full of sensitive neurological fibres. Some patients have chronically itchy ears simply because they’re highly sensitive and can often generate a cough reflex when something is gently poked in the ear! However, itchy ears can also indicate an underlying medical condition and we will explore some of the common causes of itchy ears.
- Dry Skin
Ears that produce very little or no wax, can cause dryness and itchiness. In additional to its antibacterial/antifungal properties, cerumen provides a protective lubricant layer over the ear canal. Any break in the skin can allow bacteria to enter through this protective barrier. The ear can then become infected requiring it to be treated the same as swimmer’s ear.
- Hearing aid use
Forceful insertion and removal of hearing aid moulds can cause irritation/breaks in the skin. Alternatively, the material of the mould, such as acrylic, silicone or latex, may be the cause. Ill-fitting hearing aids can also place pressure on certain areas of the ear. Poor maintenance and cleaning of hearing devices also increase the risk of infection.
- Moist ears
Trapped water/moisture in the ears is a nice spot for bacteria and fungi to inhabit.
- Too much wax
No ventilation through the ear, trapped bacteria and the movement of wax around the sensitive ear canal can cause itchiness
- Otitis Externa
- Skin conditions such as Psoriasis/Dermatitis
- Food allergies
How to treat itchy ears?
Treatment should be based on cause.
- A thorough examination of the ear is recommended. Should there be an ear full of wax, safe removal of this by a trained professional is recommended.
- Any foreign bodies in the ears should be removed.
- If the itchiness is the result of an allergic reaction, we suggest identifying and stopping the consumption of the triggering products- diet, hairsprays, clothing material etc.
- Ill-fitting hearing devices should be corrected by the patient’s audiologist
- Ear infections should be treatment and managed with topical and or oral medicines
How to prevent itchy ears?
- Ensure your patients dry their ears well following a shower/swimming
- Advise they avoid the use of cotton buds
- Advise a routine check of their ears for any wax/foreign bodies/signs of infection
- To reduce their use of earpieces
- To clear any products that are in and around the ear
- To keep their medications and management of hay fever up to date