An illustration of a woman suffering from itchy ears

Why It Happens and What You Can Do About It

Next to pain, itching is probably the most uncomfortable physical sensation. It is annoying, distracting, and in some cases, absolutely maddening.

When that itching occurs in a place you can’t reach, it can be difficult to find relief, and your ear canals are the most common place unreachable itching occurs. But don’t start scratching — your ear canal and eardrum are easily damaged by foreign objects.

Fortunately, most causes of deep ear itching are understood, and there are things you can do to alleviate or even prevent it.


Earwax Buildup

First things first: Wax buildup can happen to anyone. Some people do produce more earwax than others, but many factors can lead to someone developing earwax buildup, such as trauma, scar tissue, large debris in your ear canal, or using earbuds, earplugs, or hearing aids.

Whatever the cause, earwax buildup can trap water in your ear canal, irritating the lining of the ear canal and causing inflammation — and that classic symptom of itchiness. But don’t stick cotton swabs, pens, or similar items in your ear to scratch it! There is one over-the-counter remedy you can try.

Commercial eardrops that soften wax can clear the ear of buildup and debris and relieve itching. If that doesn’t bring relief, see your hearing care professional — they have the expertise, tools, and knowledge to remove your earwax buildup without hurting your ear canal or eardrum.



One of the most common culprits of inner ear itching is allergies. When your body encounters an allergen, it releases chemicals called histamines. They’re sort of like a security team, getting those allergens out by any means possible — such as making your skin itchy, your eyes watery, and your sneezes plentiful.

Those same histamines can also cause a drainage tube in your middle ear — your Eustachian tube — to become blocked. The sensation this creates is often interpreted as itchiness.

It’s tempting to press on your tragus (that small flap of cartilage near your ear’s opening) and wiggle it vigorously to try to relieve the itching sensation, but the best home remedy is to take an antihistamine.


Skin Conditions

Two of the more common skin diseases are eczema and psoriasis. If you have either of them, you might be too focused on the visible scaling or more inflamed areas to notice they can also affect your ears.

If you develop an ear itch and you know you have either of these conditions — or if you’ve just started noticing scaling — you might have the prime suspect in your ear itching. This two-part problem most likely doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. Any home remedy will have to be worked out with your hearing care provider and dermatologist as a joint solution.



Ear infections are common enough that you’ve probably had one at some point in your life. When you think back on the experience, it’s probably the pain you remember the most. But most likely, it started with itching, and that can be an important indicator of bacterial buildup in your middle ear — which can progress to a full-blown ear infection.

If your ear feels itchy and it’s persistent, intense, or accompanied by throbbing, schedule an appointment with your audiologist, who might decide to involve your family doctor as well. Getting it treated at this stage can save you from further discomfort down the road.



When you get embarrassed, you blush. Some people get nervous and break out in hives. And when some people get anxious, their brain’s reaction affects their nervous system, causing an itching sensation. In a very real sense, being stressed or feeling on edge can cause your ears to itch deep inside.

From deep breathing exercises to simply listening to music that you know calms you down, there are many ways right at hand to ease anxiety. Taking a hot shower or sipping a hot cup of tea may also help, as the heat dilates blood vessels and improves circulation to the ears. An added benefit of this approach is that it is likely to relax you.

But only a trip to your hearing care provider can determine if it’s something else — not anxiety — that’s causing the itch.


Dry Skin

This is the one type that is, indeed, reachable: Dry skin on the outer ear. It’s usually caused by dry skin or irritants that contact the skin. Granted, itching is rarely a noteworthy issue — it’s easy to rub or scratch the itch away. But if it becomes a nuisance, apply a bit of mineral oil or Vaseline to the affected area with a cotton swab. It can help rehydrate your skin and protect it from further irritation.


Can I Prevent Itchy Ears?

The best way to prevent itching in any part of the ear is to practice good ear hygiene and avoid allergy triggers. It’s tempting to clean your ears at home, but this often does more harm than good. No foreign object should ever be inserted into the ear — it pushes wax deeper into your ear canal, which can cause everything from painful blockages to that persistent itching you’re trying to avoid.

Wax is actually a very important component of ear health. It keeps your ear canal waterproof and resistant to microbes. Gently washing your outer ear with a soft washcloth and warm water will rinse away any excess wax or debris and help keep dermatitis at bay.

If you wear earrings, make sure they are made of a hypoallergenic metal such as pure gold, sterling silver, or titanium. Some other metals (chiefly nickel) can react with your skin and cause itching. This is especially important for cartilage piercings.

Avoid getting excess water in your ears whenever possible. Swim with your head above the surface and consider wearing a shower cap while bathing. Switching to a shampoo formulated for sensitive skin can also cut down on ear irritation.

Steer clear of allergens whenever possible, and follow your allergy treatment plan. And finally, when inserting hearing aids, earbuds, or any other device that fits into the ear, do so gently and carefully, and ensure the device is clean. It may seem like a small gesture, but anytime you place something in or near your ear canal, it can potentially disrupt the ear’s natural biome.

If you’re dealing with itchy ears this spring, don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation. We’re here to help!

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