Literally an itchy ear
November 22, 2011 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out what's going on with my itchy ear. I can't get to the doctor until next week.

My left ear has been itchy when I lay down for several months. The doctor's looked at it 3-4 times and never sees a problem. Normally it only itches when I lay flat on my back, but now it's persisting more often when I'm laying on my side, sitting up, or standing.

It occurs to me that I have not seen any wax come out of this ear in a long time. You know how you scratch your ear and you'll have a bit of wax on your finger? Yeah, nothing out of this ear.

The itch is farther in than my finger reaches so it's pretty deep. I have actually woken up out of sleep recently digging at my ear, which worries me. I am on Cephalexin (antibiotic) for a different chronic condition so I doubt it's infected.

Until I can go to the doctor next week, is there any kind of OTC ear drops I can use? All the ones I see are ear wax removal drops (which seems to not be the issue) and stuff to dry out your ear, like swimmer's ear, but I suspect my ear might be too dry already.
posted by IndigoRain to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Lie on your side and pour a capful of hydrogen peroxide in there. Let it sit for a while. If there's any wax buildup, it'll help to clear it out, and the bubbling will soothe the itching (at least for a little while).
posted by phunniemee at 7:19 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, seconding the hydrogen peroxide. Make sure to give it a decent amount of time - it's going to tickle, so you might have to try it twice - and be sure to have a towel handy so when your head tips you don't get water all over your pillow.

Don't poke it, poke at it, scratch it, or do anything like that. It'll make the itching worse.
posted by SMPA at 7:24 PM on November 22, 2011

Not to be offensive... but do you regularly clean out your ears with Q-tips? A heavy wax buildup caused a similar thing for my grandfather.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:25 PM on November 22, 2011

My ENT has me put a drop of sweet oil (purified olive oil, sold at the drug store) in my ear when it gets itchy. Unlikely to hurt anything, and she's a stickler for not putting any foreign objects in your ear canal.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:30 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

No I don't use Q-tips. I try to leave my ears alone. I know I can use a syringe or waterpik to squirt water in there (I've actually had fully plugged ears cleaned that way twice) but I'm wary of that causing issues if done too often. My ear doesn't feel plugged this time and it's not hard to hear - I'm kind of worried my ear isn't producing wax. Is it possible for your ear to stop producing wax?

I did specifically ask the doc if there was a hair in there causing the itching and he said no, he didn't see one.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:33 PM on November 22, 2011

I say possible chronic ear eczema.

No real treatment, just alleviation of symptoms. Some say vaseline, I've had some luck with vinegar. Years can go by without a flareup, and even some return of ear wax. But eventually, at some point, it will recur.

AND: if the flareup proceeds to feel like a very painful infection (though doctors will find nothing), Otalgon will help.

IANAD, IANYD, just a fellow sufferer.
posted by likeso at 7:53 PM on November 22, 2011

God, my ears get so itchy sometimes, almost unbearably. My doctor diagnosed me with allergies that cause my eardrums to expand with fluid behind them, which is uncomfortable and causes the itching. Flonase and Zyrtec keep the itching under control now, and I use witch hazel for the days when it isn't. I went undiagnosed for a long time, and the constant scratching meant I was always getting ear infections, even in my late 20s.

Have you tried taking Benadryl?

I would try some allergy medication to alleviate the itching and see if that helps. But don't start digging with Q-tips; your doctor can take care of that for you next week if you need it.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:53 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Came here to second the allergies. My ears itch something crazy when my allergies act up. And oddly enough it is almost always just my left ear that itches. Try some benedryl before you try putting anything in it.
posted by teleri025 at 8:12 PM on November 22, 2011

Yep, I say allergies also. Benadryl makes me nuts, but daily Zyrtec during high-allergy seasons (which, for me, in Southern California, is right now - itch and all) keeps it manageable. The back of my throat will sometimes itch in a similar way at the same time.

It is substantially worse when I'm not upright. For whatever reason, my right ear is far worse than my left (I don't know if it has to do with rupturing it on an airplane with a cold several years ago; I don't remember the itch from before then) and I am kind of a hardcore right-side sleeper most of the time. I have to sleep the other way as much as I can or I wake up with my pinky jammed in there like I'm trying to scratch my brain.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:54 PM on November 22, 2011

{allergy description to follow}

Oh yeah, that sounds like allergy juiciness. I hate that. It's not the thick snotty goopiness of a stuffy nose. It's pure, drippy flowing nonsense.

I can make an absolutely revolting gurgling sound in the back of my throat to scratch it. Unfortunately, the relief lasts about 10 seconds and then it's back to the itch.

Benedryl and lots of it. It's the only way to dry it out.

{/allergy talk}
posted by 26.2 at 8:54 PM on November 22, 2011

Oh - I do find a nasal rinse (neti pot or it's cousin the sinus wash bottle) before bed every night does help, along with a bedtime (real, ID-required) Sudafed when I've got drainage in general.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:57 PM on November 22, 2011

Thanks everyone, I'll try some Benadryl next time it starts itching. I did use some peroxide last night and it took a little while, but it finally stopped itching for now.

Lyn, I do use a Neti pot from time to time for my sinuses, but I can't take Sudafed, it makes my heart go crazy. Also - the pinky shoved in there like you're trying to scratch your brain - that is exactly how I feel.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:46 AM on November 23, 2011

Because no one said it directly above, even though it doesn't sound like the OP will do this - please don't put Q tips in your ear canals. It will not keep your ears from getting blocked and could actually block them up more and make it very hard to clean them out, once you push all the wax so far back it's next to your eardrum. If you need to get wax out use the drops.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:19 AM on November 23, 2011

Went to my doc with a similar, episodic, problem, except it was both ears and not obvious to me if it came from deep in or near the surface, and not positionally dependent as in your case.

Doc looked and saw no wax. He said that in the case of no wax the problem is often at or near the surface even though it can feel deeper. Suggested applying small amount of OTC cortisone cream to the canal exit with finger tip.

Followed doc's advice using CVS cortisone cream. It worked, with immediate relief!
posted by Kevin S at 9:40 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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