Itchy Ears – What Are The Causes And How Can You Manage Them
Do your ear canals itch – especially after you’ve been wearing your hearing aids? This is a common problem, and for most people, not an issue. But it’s nice to get some relief, understand why this is happening, and how you can reduce the problem.
Causes of the itch
Hearing aids – the coating on the earmould is plastic and some people’s skin may react to this material. The pressure of the earmould can irritate or even cause pressure sores. Moisture or water can also get trapped behind the earmould which can cause an itch.
Some BTE and RIC hearing aids use a soft silicon dome instead of a traditional hard plastic earmould, and these too can cause irritation.
Ear infections – if you suffer from recurrent ear infections or any other outer ear issues and you have a hearing aid, itchy ears may be more common than before.
Outer ear conditions and their impact on wearing hearing aids should be carefully considered before selecting a device to assist with your hearing.
Too much wax – our ears are meant to make wax – they help keep bugs and bacteria out. Wax should move out of your ear naturally but having an earmould in your ear can slow this process causing a build-up of wax behind the ear mould. Sticking cotton buds in your ears can also aggravate this process.
Whatever the reason for the wax in your ear, it can cause an itch from time to time, especially if the wax is right near the entrance of your ear canal.
Dry ear canals – if you’ve been in the habit of sticking cotton buds in your ear canals, have naturally dry skin, don’t produce enough wax or you have dermatitis, your skin can be dry. Wax is an oily substance and if you don’t have enough of it, your skin will dry out in your canals, producing flaky skin along with an itch.
Hay fever – we’re in the middle of Spring and your ears may feel itchier than usual. You could be suffering from hay fever. Pollen, dust and other allergens (such as the fur from your pet) can cause hay fever and an added itch in your ears.
Food – while we’re on the subject of allergens, food can also cause itchy ears. If you have allergic reactions to certain types of food, this could be the reason behind the itch in your ears. Nuts, gluten, dairy products, soy, and shellfish are high on the list of causes.
Stopping the itch
So you’ve got itchy ears – how do you make it stop? If the itchiness doesn’t go away and it is causing you discomfort or your skin is reacting adversely, you need to get some relief. If you have a known outer ear condition, visit your doctor to get treatment.
And if excess wax is causing a blockage in your ear canals – get it removed. If the itch began with your wearing hearing aids, you need to discuss this with your audiologist at your next visit.
There are some remedies they can try.
- Fit of the earmould: If the earmould doesn’t fit properly in your ear this can cause irritation. If it is too loose or too tight your ears may itch or develop pressure sores in the ear. A new earmould may need to be made.
- Open-fitting issues: If you have a hearing aid with a soft dome, you have what’s called an ‘open fitting’. These soft domes can also cause itchy ears. If the dome is the wrong size – too large or too small – it can cause irritation. The length of the tubing that carries the sound from the hearing aid into the ear has to be the right length. If it is too long, the hearing aid sits too high over the ear. If it’s too short the dome will be pulled out of the ear or put pressure on the skin.
- Allergic to earmould material: This can happen, particularly if you have known allergic reactions, or dry ear canals. Earmoulds can be made out of hypoallergenic material, or, if your level of hearing allows it, your audiologist may change you from an earmould to a soft dome open-fitting.
- Trapped moisture: If you have a custom or ITE style of hearing aid, moisture can get trapped between your skin and the earmould. Not only will this cause itchiness, it can lead to fungal growth. Keeping your ears dry is very important if you wear this style of hearing aid, particularly if you have the very tight fitting deep earmoulds.
If you’re experiencing itchy ear canals with your hearing aids, tell your audiologist so they can help address the problem.
It could be a simple fix of a drop of olive oil in your ears at night for dry ears, or trying a different dome size. However, if the problem is not straight-forward, new ear impressions or even changing the style of your hearing aid may need to be considered.