Itching in the ears is a common problem that can cause discomfort, but it is usually not harmful. The ears are filled with delicate neurological fibres that make them sensitive to itching. However, itchy ears can sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical condition, and it is essential to understand the common causes to take the appropriate steps.
The ear consists of the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The ear canal, located in the outer ear, picks up sound waves from the environment and passes them to the middle ear, which amplifies them. The inner ear converts these sound waves into electrical signals that are sent to the brain for reception.
Here are some common causes of itchy ears:
Swimmer’s Ear: A condition that affects the outer ear canal due to constant exposure to water, particularly in unclean bodies of water like rivers and ponds, causing infection and making the ear feel very itchy.
Wax accumulation: When the ear produces more wax than necessary, it can lead to the accumulation of excess wax, causing the ears to itch.
Dry skin: Inadequate production of ear wax can cause the skin in and around the ear to become dry and itchy, even flaking in some cases.
Eczema and other skin problems: Skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis can affect the ears and cause them to become dry and itchy.
Dandruff: Dandruff from the scalp can enter the ear canal and cause itching.
Use of oil in the ears: Excessive use of oil in the ears to treat minor earaches can cause skin infections, leading to itchy ears.
Using earphones/hearing aids: Plastic coating on hearing aids and excessive use of earphones can cause allergic reactions and itchy ears.
Fungal infection of the ears: Fungal ear infection known as otomycosis, is an infection of the outer ear that can lead to inflamed, dry, itchy skin and possibly a smelly discharge.
Itchy ears can feel irritating and bothersome, and scratching them can make the itching worse. Sometimes, itchy ears may be accompanied by symptoms like fever, swelling, or drainage from the ear. Seek medical attention from your ENT specialist if you experience severe bleeding due to itchy ears. Avoid inserting cotton buds/swabs/needles/pins/pencil into your ear in an attempt to clean it, as it can cause further damage. It is recommended to have your ears checked if you have persistent itching to determine the cause and receive proper treatment.