Tag Archives: Ears

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #60: ITCHY EARS

Itchy ears; even if from trivial causes, they demand attention. Swimmer’s ear is a subset of itchy ears, which can lead to some severe infections and sleepless nights. Water remaining in the ears dissolves the natural, protective earwax, and provides a nice warm bath for some nasty bugs like Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Swimmers ear is the result, and the best strategy is to prevent it by keeping  the water out.

After swimming, I often twist some Kleenex and insert it into  my ear canal to “wick out” the water. Some people use a 70% Isopropyl alcohol solution to rinse out the water. Don’t use the 99% isopropyl alcohol; it’ll burn like crazy and for some reason is not as effective an antibacterial. If the itchy ear starts to become painful, and the pain is made worse by pulling on the earlobe, the best strategy is to call the doctor.

Hearing aids comprise a special problem. Earwax can damage the mechanism of the hearing aid, and the hearing aid can cause an irritation that produces itching. Be sure to ask the audiologist about how to prevent problems.

I wear earplugs to deliver sound to my ears when I swim. The ear plugs can cause irritation or even an allergic reaction. I believe this is one of the reasons my ears itch most of the time. My ENT physician suggested that I put a little baby oil in my ear, which I am continuing to do.

Accumulations of earwax can also cause itching. Most of the time I remove the wax myself with an over-the-counter kit containing an ear syringe and glyceryl peroxide. About every third time I need wax removed from my ear, I go to the ENT doctors  to be sure I don’t have some sort of fungal infection or other chronic condition.

If you swab your ear with a Q-tip, you risk pushing the wax deeper into the canal, and create a problem. Nonetheless, I still occasionally put a little bit of 1% hydrocortisone cream if the itching gets extreme. My doctor said that this accelerates the build up of debris and the need for irrigating the canal.

The old adage that you shouldn’t put anything into your ear smaller than your elbow is a good interdict to embrace. Digging out the wax with some sort of instrument risks damaging the canal or hurting your eardrum.

For more information, please look at the following posts.

—Dr. C.

Mayo Clinic Article

Healthy Hearing Article

Prevention: Side Effects Of Excessive Earwax