Itchy ears are something most people experience at some point in their lives and can happen at any age. No matter what the root cause, we never recommend putting anything in your ear to scratch it, as it is easy to damage structurally.
Ear Wax Build-up
Sometimes ear wax (or cerumen) builds up in the ear canal and becomes hard and itchy. For people with small ear canals, cleaning with a cotton swab only serves to pack the wax further into the ear instead of removing it. If there is enough wax to actually block the ear canal it causes a 25-30 dB conductive hearing loss (just like a regular earplug!). Ear wax removal by a licensed healthcare provider is done by using a warm water flush, suction, or a curette. Additionally, occasionally rinsing your ear canals with a 50-50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and white vinegar can help keep cerumen accumulation under control.
Natural remedies or folk healing, such as ear candling, should be avoided for itchy ears as there is no evidence that they are effective for treatment. Risks include burns, perforated eardrum or permanent hearing loss.
Lack of Ear Wax
Occasionally, we produce less wax or over-clean our ears. By removing this natural layer, the skin in the ear dries out and becomes itchy as a result. If you live in a dry environment or are in the wind often, dust and sand can enter the ear canal and cause further irritation.
Seasonal or Skin Allergies
A common problem during the Spring pollen season is that allergies cause our sinuses to clear out pollen and dust. These allergens can also cause ears to itch. Talk to your health provider about allergy medication.
Contact allergies from shampoo or hair products or wearing earbuds can cause itching. You may find that certain earrings cause inflammation and itching. Plastic and rubber have also been tagged as potential irritants. Clean earbuds regularly and let them dry completely.
Modern hearing instrument domes and earmolds are made of hypoallergenic materials. The movement of domes in the ear canal can initially cause a ‘tickling’ feeling which typically disappears after a day or two. If this problem persists, then a larger size of dome is usually required. Earmolds that block the ear canal can lead to moisture building up in the canal which then can cause itching. Sterilizing earmold cleaning solutions are a good way to minimize the risk of ear canal infections.
Certain foods can cause ears to itch if you have an allergic reaction. Usually common with seasonal allergies, food allergies can hit you when eating particular plant-based foods. This reaction typically resolves quickly, but you may find with severe allergies that you need to speak with your doctor.
Persons with psoriasis or eczema may also find that their ear canals are also itchy. Ear drops are a common solution, but steroids may be needed during flare-ups.
As you can see here, there are many reasons why your ear canal may be itchy. If you find that it does not resolve in a week or so, contact your healthcare provider to identify the cause of the itching and help get it under control.