What is the meaning of itch ears? What causes itching ears? Are there myths or superstitions associated with ear itch? Learn possible causes of ear itch (including inside, inner ears or itchy ear canal) such allergies, ear wax, otitis, infections as well as their treatments. You will also cover something on itchy behind ears, ear lobes, outer ear, and much more.
Itchy ears meaning or what does itchy ears mean
Itchy ears or refers to the uncomfortable tickling, prickling, tingling or irritating sensation on your ears that makes one to want to scratch their ears (and not the bible itchy ear meaning in 2 Timothy 4:3-4). The itchiness is often on your outer ear i.e. itchy ear canal, ear lobe, behind your ears and at times on your middle ear.
The itching can be mild or severe (very itchy ears), constant (be throughout while some people have reported itching ears at night), affect one ear (itchy left or right ear) or both ears. Sometimes, you can have extremely or really itch ears that you will be tempted to stick objects into your ears to easy the itching. This is dangerous as it can cause trauma to your ear canal.
Itchy ears superstition or myth
There are many superstitions associated with ear itching. For instance, a burning or itching ear is believed to mean someone is talking about you. To be specific:
- Itchy left ear – when you have your left ear itching, it is believed to mean or indicates someone who loves you is talking about you or whomever is talking is saying something nice about you.
- Itchy right ear – means the opposite of itchy left ear. To calm it, you need to “lick your finger and wipe it on your ear lobe… bad about you will bite their own tongue” Quite funny!
From some sources, the interpretation is vice versa for right and left ears. There are also many other itching ears myths, superstitions and believes that vary from one society to another.
Outer, middle and inner ear
Before we discuss much on itchy ears, it is worthwhile to briefly look at the anatomy of the ear. This will ensure you understand everything well. The human ear has three main parts which are:
- The outer ear – it consists mainly of the pinna (auricle) and ear canal (external auditory meatus).
- The middle ear – it has eardrums (tympanic membrane) which are just after your ear canal, tympanic cavity, and ossicles (three small bones – auditory bones) that connect eardrum to your inner ear.
- The inner ear – This “contains the sensory organs for hearing and balance” [asha.org] i.e. cochlea for hearing and semicircular canals for balancing, auditory tube (Eustachian tubes) that drains middle ear fluid to your throat just behind your nose and an oval window that connects middle ear to inner ear.
Itchy ear canal, Itchy inner ear or itchy ears inside confusion
For the context of this discuss, itchy inner ears, itchy inside ears and itch ear canal have been taken to mean the inner part of the outer ear or simply the ear canal. This therefore means that all except otitis media can be responsible for itchy ears.
We did not discuss the causes of itchiness on inner ear i.e. cochlea, semicircular canals or oval window but rather those of the outer ear (pinna and ear canal). I hope this clarifies and clears the confusion on inner ear itch you might have.
Itching ears symptoms
The exact symptoms that you will have will depend on the underlying cause of your ear itching. The most common symptoms that might accompany itching ears include fever, swelling, tenderness or pain, scaling, flaking, crusting, redness, rash, drainage coming out of the ear, sore throat, common cold, flu, coughing, among others.
What causes itchy ears or why are your ears itching?
There are many possible causes of itching ears. Most of the causes are not serious, although some can be serious and require medical attention i.e. they may require professional ENT doctors or surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment of this problem. Some of the common causes of ear itchiness especially the ear itching (and ear canal itching) include:
1. Itching ears due to psoriasis
This “is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales… patches can be itchy or sore”. If it affects your ears, you can end up with itching ears. There is not cure for psoriasis but it can be managed by tropical products such as corticosteroids, vitamin D analogues, phototherapy or systemic treatments when it is severe.
2. Itchy ears allergies
Allergies to various allergens including food, medicine, dust mites, pollen, pet dander, insect bites, cleaning detergents, bathing products, etc. can trigger allergic reactions that will cause runny nose, puffy eyes, swollen face and sometimes itchy ears. To know you have itchy ears allergies, you will notice common allergy symptoms such as the ones we have mentioned.
Conditions such as allergic rhinitis or hay fever though it causes inflammation inside the nose can cause “Itchy ears, nose, and throat”. Obvious symptoms include watery and itchy eyes, coughing and throat tickle, runny nose, sneezing, stuffed nose, nose rubbing, among other symptoms.
Avoid allergens, get allergy shots, and try OTC antihistamines, among other treatments to manage the various symptoms that result from hay fever.
3. Ear canal dermatitis
Ear canal dermatitis “characterized by pruritis, scaling, flaking, and erythema of the skin of the external auditory meatus and ear canal”. It is commonly caused by contact (contact dermatitis) with allergens or be spontaneous (aural eczematoid dermatitis or chronic otitis externa).
Common allergens that cause contact dermatitis include earrings containing nickel, beauty products such as hair dye, lotions, hairsprays, etc. while aural eczematoid dermatitis is common for people who are predisposed to have atopy, seborrhea or psoriasis.
Both aural eczematoid dermatitis and contact dermatitis often cause “itching, redness, clear (serous) discharge, desquamation, hyperpigmentation, and, sometimes, fissuring”. This makes one vulnerable to bacterial infections. Crusting and flaking might later occur.
Treatment for contact dermatitis is by avoiding irritants or allergens as well as using tropical corticosteroids while aural eczematoid dermatitis require Burow solution (dilute solution of aluminum acetate).
4. Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff)
This is another possible cause of ear itching that is commonly accompanied with “scaly crust that develops on the front of the ear or behind the crease of the ear. To treat rash due to seborrheic dermatitis, try medicated soaps, shampoos and creams coupled with proper washing. Other treatments include use of lotrimin and hydrocortisone creams.
5. Dry itchy ears or Itchy flaky ears – too little earwax
Going on with possible causes of itchy ears, especially ear canal is insufficient wax production. Ear wax play a crucial role in lubricating your ears. When you have no wax or they are so little, your outer ear especially ear canal will dry up causing not just itching but also fakery ears i.e. you will have itchy scaly ears.
6. Itchy ear wax i.e. excess earwax
Just as too little earwax can cause itchiness, having excess earwax can make your ear canal to itch and impair the hearing process. Furthermore, accumulation of dead hair, bugs, debris or anything in your ear canal can lead to itchiness.
Do not remove wax with a foreign object. Instead, place a warm cloth or bottle of water as you are lying down. This will soften wax and let it come out. Wipe any wax that comes out. If you are unable, see a doctor to recommend best ways to remove excess earwax.
7. Hearing aids
Ill-fitting hearing aids that apply pressure on some parts of your ears, allergic reaction to these hearing aids as well as water getting trapped in your ears due to their use can lead to ear itching.
8. Fungal infection or candida
If you are prone to fungal infection on your feet, groin or armpit area, it is possible to have that your ear itching is caused by a fungal infection on your ear canal. Frequent swimming might cause moisture in your ears that give a favorable condition for fungal growth leading to itching ear canal. A fungal ear drop will always be recommend.
9. Otitis media or ear infection
If you have inflammation, earache and itchy middle ear on the space behind your eardrums, it is likely you have otitis media. This condition is common in children but might affect adults too. In children it might make them pull their ears, cry, and have irritable sleeps, fever, reduce eating among symptoms.
Ear infection is commonly accompanied with common cold, flu since the middle ear is connected to your upper respiratory track via Eustachian tube. When this tube is clogged or does not work well can lead to infection especially by bacteria which are often responsible for pneumonia and sinusitis. Viral infections such as flue, cold, allergies can also cause otitis media.
Recurring or constant itchy ears and/or drainages through ear might indicate a faulty or clogged Eustachian tube. Seek professional medical help.
10. Red itchy ears due to otitis Externa or swimmer’s ear
Going on with possible itchy ears causes, swimmer’s ear can cause itchy ear inside. This is a “condition that causes inflammation (redness and swelling) of the external ear canal, which is the tube between the outer ear and eardrum”. Its common symptoms include ear pain that could be very severe, itchy ear canal, liquid and pus discharge from ear, temporary loss of hearing ability among others.
Normally only one ear gets affected and it is commonly caused by bacterial infection. However, allergies, irritation (especially nervous habits that is accompanied with ear scratching) and fungal infection can cause this problem too. Treatment will require you see your GP first to diagnosis before various ear drops can be used depending of the cause.
11. Regular swimming or wet itchy ears
Regular swimmers tend to develop inner ear itching problem than those who do not swim regularly. This is due to too much moisture in ear, and possible exposure to the many germs in water – bacteria and fungi. This case will be worse if your inner ear skin is broken.
Use a swim cap or ear plugs when you go swimming and use a cool blow dryer to remove any moisture from your inner ear after a shower or swimming. Ensure you do not get burnt.
12. Other causes of ear itchiness
There are many other possible causes of ears that are itchy that include eczema, sticking blunt objects into your ears can break your skin leading to germ entry especially bacteria, warm climatic conditions, ringworms,
Sudden, extreme and really itchy ears
The most likely cause of very itchy ear canal, if they happen all over a sudden is allergic reaction. Some infections can also result to severe itching but it is unlikely to be sudden i.e. “sudden, severe, or unusual should be evaluated for a serious food allergy that can come on rapidly, with a strong need to scratch”. Furthermore, sudden itching could be life threatening if it a sign you have anaphylaxis.
Night time itchy inside ear or itchy ears at night
Itchy ears at night could be due to any of the causes we have mentioned if it begins during night time. There is not specific cause for ears that itch at night only.
Why do I suffer from Itchy behind ears
Itchy behind ears could be due to a number of conditions that include:
- Seborrheic dermatitis also common on the outer ear characterized by lesions, plagues, and “white and flaking, or yellowish, oily, and sticky dandruff”
- Ringworms characterized by a scaly silvery or red rash or patch, itchiness and inflammation
- Head lice can also be responsible for itchiness not just behind your ears but also in your scalp
Itchy behind ears can also be caused by bug bites, allergic reactions, infections (bacterial or fungal) contact dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema among other skin related problems if they affect this particular area.
What are these Itchy rash on ears
Itch rashes on ears is commonly associated with skin problems or conditions such as eczema (characterized by scaly, rough, dry and thickened rash), psoriasis (if you have silvery white scales), contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, ringworms or bug bites.
Note that if you have a red-pink rash behind your ears that spreads to your neck and around your head, comes with fever, swollen lymph nodes, cold like symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, sore throat or cold, it could be rubella, a viral infection.
Why do I have itchy ear lobe
If you have itchy ear lobes, the common cause could be problems relating to piercing, earlobe skin irritation and dryness. Allergies to nickel used in earrings and other metals can cause ear lobe itchiness.
Furthermore, infections including ring worms, contact dermatitis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, bug bites especially from head lice, psoriasis, etc. can cause ear lobe irritation, itchiness, rash such as small red bumps, scaling, swelling, etc.
What does Itchy outer ears mean?
Since outer ear comprises of the pinna and ear canal, itchy outer hear can be due to all the reasons we have seen that cause itchy ears except otitis media which affects middle ear. More reasons for itchy outer ear are those we have seen that cause itchiness behind ears as well as on ear lobes.
Is it my Itchy ear drum or ear canal
It is not easy to tell if your eardrum or earn canal is the one that is itchy since eardrum is in the middle part of the ear, just after the ear canal. Most people tend to confuse ear can itch for ear drum itch.
Itchy ears treatment, how to stop and ear drops for itchy ears
While looking at each of the causes, we covered something on itchy ear treatment that is specific to the cause. Most of these treatments will either deal with the cause or relieve itchy ears.
Common ways to treat, relieve, heal or cure for itchy ears include antibiotic ointments (antibiotic ear drops for itchy ears), baby oil (will make your skin softer), tropical anti-inflammatory especially steroids such as 0.1% percent bethamethasone cream and 1% hydrocortisone cream, swimmer’s ear eardrops, hydrogen peroxide, dilute rubbing alcohol solution, acetic acid, antihistamines, antifungal drops, etc.
When your itching ears come with fever and pus or blood drainage, a doctor might recommend oral antibiotics as an additional treatment for itchy ears. Other ways to stop itchy inside ear or provide ear itchiness relieve include:
- Problems such as inadequate lubrication by earwax, too much water in ears, and presence of foreign particles that often cause broken skin in ear can be fixed easily by a doctor.
- When caused by allergic reactions, avoid allergens and use antihistamines
- Avoid using any ointment or ear drops for itchy ears before you consult your physician since some of these products can cause inflammation and worsen the situation
- Avoid use of any ear drops if your eardrums are damaged.
- Cotton ball or ear plugs should be worn during bubble shower or bath to reduce amount of moisture getting into your ear.
- Do not use headphones, earplugs or hearing aids if your ear is already infected.
These are some of the general ways to deal with or how to treat itchy ears
Home remedies for itchy ears remedies for itchy ears
Besides the treatment for itchy inner ear or ear canal, you can try various home remedies for itchy ears to help relieve the itchiness. Some of the popular natural treatments you can give a try include
- For dry itchy ear canal or flaky and itchy inner ear – A few drops of warn mineral or vegetable oils such as olive oil will keep moisture off your ear and avoid dryness if you have a problem of dry itchy or flaky ear canal. Do a wrist test to avoid being burnt.
- Use of Alcohol and water – To remove debris and kill any bugs is injecting alcohol or water via a bulb or ear syringe. The same syringe is can be used to draw water or alcohol you injected.
Other home remedies for itchy inside ear include the use of coconut oil, a mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar, tea tree oil, etc. to help fight any infection and soothe irritation.
How to prevent itching inside ear
Prevention is better than cure, to minimize the chances of getting an itchy ear (including ear canal), try the following:
- Always clean your ears (do not overdo it as it gets rid of earwax essential for lubrication), dry and moisturize them,
- Do not clean your ears with cotton swabs, balls, paper clips or bobbin pins.
- Ensure your jewelry is anti-allergenic
- Dry excess water with solution if you swim frequently
- For those who produce too much earwax, see a doctor for help and advice on safe earwax removal techniques.
When to seek for medical help
If you have tried the various ways to stop each years without success or you have sudden and really itchy ears (or extremely itchy years), you are severely bleeding, or excessive drainage, and you might be required to see your ENT doctor. Furthermore, if itching is a “symptomatic of a serious anaphylactic reaction, which impairs breathing; causes swelling, fainting and vomiting; and is considered a medical emergency”.