Itchy ear canal

An itchy ear canal is usually caused due to bacterial or viral infections of the ear canal. It generally tends to affect children more than adults. Ear infections that lead to an itchy ear canal are of two types, i.e. acute or middle ear infections and outer or external ear infections.

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Infection of the outer ear with germs and other bacteria leads to the development of otitis externa or outer ear infection which may or may not result in an itchy ear canal.

The inner or the middle ear comprises of the ear canal and other parts of the middle ear. When the inner ear and other regions of the ear canal are infected with germs, viruses and bacteria, then it leads to the development of otitis media or middle ear infection. This can result in an itchy ear canal.

Symptoms of itchy ear canal

The signs and symptoms of an itchy ear canal in children as well as adults are listed below:

An itchy ear canal due to outer ear infections-

  • The insides of the ear may have excessive irritation as well as itching
  • The skin on the ears tends to become increasing dry and scaly eventually resulting in flaking
  • There are increased feelings of pain when an individual touches an infected ear, or whist moving the head.
  • The ears may have increased redness or flushing
  • The infected ears may discharge pus-like fluids
  • Increased instances of fever along with increased body temperature

An itchy ear canal due to middle ear infections-

  • Watery or fluid discharge from within the ear
  • Intense or severe ear pain
  • Soreness of the throat
  • Impaired or diminished hearing capabilities

Other symptoms of an itchy ear canal that are rare include the following:

  • There may be increased occurrences of fever which are usually accompanied by headaches
  • The ear may have sensations of fullness or increased pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Activities such as lying down may lead to increased ear pain
  • Minor loss in one’s sense of balance
  • Sleep disturbances or difficulties
  • Excessive irritability
  • Increased fidgetiness due to a persistently irritating ear
  • Diminished appetite or loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

Untreated cases in children who experience an itchy ear canal caused due to ear infections may lead to developmental delays in speech and other factors. Such developmental abnormalities can eventually lead to an impaired childhood and a dysfunctional adulthood.

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The infections of an itchy ear canal can spread to other organs of the body such as the brain, the lungs, etc which may to serious medical complications.

Causes of itchy ear canal

  • An itchy ear canal is usually caused due to ear infections that result from the deposition of viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms in the middle and outer ear. Additionally, there are several other illnesses such as allergies as well as cold or flu that result in inflammation and clogging of the nasal passage, the ear canal and the throat which can lead to infection of the ears or its tissues thereby causing an itchy ear canal.

Some of the causes and risk factors of an itchy ear canal are listed below:

  • The Eustachian tubes or the ear canal maintains the air pressure in the ear; refreshes the air in the ear, and removes the discharge from the middle ear. Cold, allergies and other such illnesses can cause the congestion of the tubes which facilitates the collection of excess fluids in the middle ear. Any infection of such liquids by bacteria and viruses may eventually lead to infections of the ear, an itchy ear canal and severe ear pain
  • Any kind of inflammation or swelling of the adenoids may also lead to the congestion of the Eustachian tubes resulting in an itchy ear canal and pain
  • Alternating climates and changing weather conditions may bring the onset of cold, flu and other diseases thereby increasing the risk to an itchy ear canal in children as well as adults
  • A strong family history of seasonal allergies and ear infections increases the vulnerability to developing an itchy ear canal
  • Prolonged and constant exposure to tobacco smoke or polluted air also tends to increase the susceptibility of individuals to develop an itchy ear canal

Treatment of itchy ear canal

An itchy ear canal and its symptoms can be treated in the following ways:

  • One may reduce the accompanying ear pain with a warm compress
  • Prescription eardrops and pain killer medications may also assist in treating pain, infections and other symptoms of an itchy ear canal
  • Bacterial infections of the ear may be treated with prescribed antibiotics
  • In serious cases of an itchy ear canal, the affected individuals must consult an ENT specialist.
  • Regular exercise and a healthy diet can increase the capacity of the immune system to fight illnesses thereby preventing cases of itchy ear canal. Additionally, one can also avoid polluted or smoke-filled environments.
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