Common Causes of Having Itchiness in the Ears

Dryness

By far, this is the commonest cause of having an itch in the ear. You must have noticed that your ears itch after you clean your ear thoroughly with a cotton bud or cloth. Such thorough cleanings remove the waxy coverings lining the ear canal, rendering them dry.

A simple remedy would be instilling clean and bland olive oil with a dropper into the ear canal. This would alleviate the itch.

Similarly, scratching the ear canal with a finger nails, metal pins, pens etc scratches the ear canal from inside. This may breach the canal mucosa at places, making these areas prone to infections.

Too Much or Too Little Wax

Wax is a natural substance, secreted inside the ear canal by surface cells. This viscous substances entraps dead skin cells, dirt, germs, allergens, and other wastes. Wax is regularly swept off by the ear canal. However, in cases where it hardens, you may need to wash it off manually.

If you secrete too much of wax, it may irritate the ear canal and give you itch. There may be a temporary loss of hearing too.

Similarly, too little of wax is also a problem. It indicates that the ear canal is dry.

A Throat Infection

It’s very common to have a itchy feel in one ear, when you suffer from an allergic or viral throat infection. Sometimes, one may even feel pain and warmth over the ear.

Why This Happens?

This happens because there’s a common nerve, supplying the ear and the part of the throat on that side. That is why symptoms are unilateral, only one ear is affected.

Pain may be there when the infection is severe. This pain is called referred pain, as is it referred to the ear from the throat.

Why are Symptoms Unilateral?

Symptoms occur in one ear only, though in some case, both the ears may be affected. The reason is that when you get sore throat, there is an allergen or a germ that has entered your throat and got established there. The infective agent establishes itself over a small portion of the whole throat mucosa and triggers inflammation.

So, in the beginning, the throat is affected in part. If no medical intervention is made, the inflammation may spread to cover larger throat areas.

Ear, over the side of throat that’s initially affected by inflammation, may show itchiness or referred pain.

Allergy

The commonest type is contact dermatitis. Here, the skin over the ear has come in touch with some allergen. This may be a woolen cap, scarf, some soap or shampoo used during bathing, ear plugs etc. The ear may become red, slightly swollen and itchy.

Jewelery wore in the ear is another factor. Wearing a nickel erring has been pointed out to be the culprit in many cases. Inert metals, like gold and platinum, are the safest to wear.

In most cases, removal of the allergen gives instant relief.

Apart from this, when you suffer a generalized allergic condition in your body, you may feel itchiness in your eyes, ears and throat. Eyes may be watery and red. This happens commonly in spring or autumn, when surrounding temperatures fluctuate or you get exposed to a lot of pollen in the air.

Infections

Bacterial or viral infections of the ear or throat may give symptoms such as pain, itch, swelling and redness of the ear.

Connection Between The Ear and the Throat

You must be wondering why our ears get affected in cases of throat infections. What’s the connection?

There’s a very straight connection between these two. The connection is called Eustachian tube.

The middle portion of our ear gives out a slender tube called Eustachian tube that continues downwards to open into the inside of the throat on each side. This tube is helpful in diffusing pressure changes that affect the ear. However, this tube also forms a pathway through which germs may travel up and down these two organs.

Skin Conditions

Psoriasis or Eczemas may affect skin over any part of the body, including that over the ears. The conditions are diagnosed on examination by a doctor.

Usually, silvery white flakes may be seen in psoriatic conditions. While, eczematous skin is red and slightly swollen.

Fungal Infections

It is not uncommon to get a fungal infection in the ear. This may happen in conditions where these organs are exposed to high levels of moistures, as in swimmers, unhygienic conditions, hot humid places etc.

The affected areas of the ear show a itchy red rash, which may be slightly swollen.

Altered pH of the Ear Canal

Ear pH

It is very interesting to note that the pH of the external ear canal is acidic, and not neutral. This acidic environment has been seen to prevent several bacteria and fungi from growing there.

Acidic pH prevents infection. Any change in ear canal pH may give a chance to these bugs to establish themselves there, and you may get an itch or pain, suggesting an infection.

When Does Ear pH Change?

  • Excessive washing or cleaning of the ear canal. Usually, cleaning the canal once a week is enough. Our body has its own mechanism of trapping germs and dust in there. It produces a waxy secretion, which is sticky and traps all bugs and dirt. This is gradually swept outwards and expelled out of the canal.
  • You may sometimes need to assist this cleaning process by taking out impacted or hardened wax at weekly time intervals.
  • Excessive cleaning with alcohol based ear drops may alter the canal’s pH, actually harming you more by making it prone to growth of bugs there.
  • Swimming– Pool or lake water are slightly alkaline. Prolonged or frequent sessions there may alter the ear pH.
  • Using ear drops on a frequent basis. Most ear drops are alcohol based cleansing agents. Be cautious before you use them.
  • Infections- If your ear canal is infected, its pH may be different.

How To Restore Ear pH?

If you have an infection in there, you’ll need prescription medicines. These may include antibiotics or anti fungals.

If you itch, and you know it’s not an infection, it’s a good idea to check your ear pH. This can be done with a pH strip.

Restore acidity in your ear canal by gently instilling dilute acetic acid in it. Vinegar has this chemical and may be safely used.

How to Use?

  • Lie on one side.
  • Check if your ear is clean enough, that is, there’re no visible lumps of wax in there.
  • Now instill 3 to 4 drops of vinegar in it.
  • Let it stay for 5 minutes. Repeat in the other ear.
  • You don’t need to clean your ears after this.