Health Topics

Healthy Living

October 2010
Itching Ears
Dr. Kumaresh Krishnamurthy
The ear canal skin is very sensitive. All kinds of things can start an ear itch. The slightest accumulation of debris, even a dead hair, may be felt as an itching sensation. The normal ear has a thin layer of natural body oil called ear wax, but some ears produce none of it, which results in dry and itchy ear skin - due to accumulation of flakes of dry dead skin.

Why Ears Itch
If you have skin conditions like eczema (a skin inflammation), psoriasis (a chronic skin disease characterised by dry red patches covered with scales) or seborrhoeic dermatitis (the same troublemaker responsible for dandruff), you wouldn’t have to search high and low for the culprit of your ear itch. These are the other usual suspects:
  • Moisture caused by ear wax build-up
  • Excessive ear cleaning (ear buds are no buddies!)
  • Fungal infections in the ear canal
  • Allergy could be responsible for itchiness inside the ear
  • Water becoming trapped in the ear can infect the outer ear and ear canal – causing Swimmer’s Ear
5 Solutions
The general principles are to avoid aggressive cleaning and to keep the ear dry. When the itch starts, here’s what to do:
  • Don’t scratch it! Sticking a cotton swab — or if you’re really foolish, a house key or paper clip —in your ear can damage your eardrum. Doctors have an old saying: Never stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ear!
  • Oil that itch. A drop or two of mineral oil, olive oil or some other vegetable oil can soothe an itchy ear instantly. Really!
  • Remove the earwax. Meet with an ENT doctor or use wax solvents to remove the wax. However, remember that a little earwax actually helps prevent itching.
  • Treat the underlying skin problem. Meet with your skin specialist and treat the cause.
  • See your doctor. Because it’s difficult to see many of the causes of itching—like a fungal infection. You could benefit from consulting with your doctor if the itching persists for more than a few days.
Dr. Kumaresh Krishnamurthy is Sr. Consultant, ENT, Head & Neck Surgery and Neurotology at Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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