Ears! Help!
February 1, 2007 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Why are my ears itchy all the time? :(

I've talked to my family doc and a hearing specialist but they haven't found anything besides a bit of scarring that I've caused through the overuse of q-tips. I don't have excessive amounts of earwax or anything. I take frequent showers. This problem wouldn't bother me that much (mainly because scratching the inside of the ear canal is quite pleasurable) but for the fact that I'm slowly but surely losing my hearing. It's nothing major (and maybe simply age related (but I'm in my mid 20s!)). I've noticed though that I've been saying "pardon" and "I couldn't quite hear you" a lot lately.

Help me fix my itchy ears mefi, I don't want to go deaf by the time I'm 30!
posted by aeighty to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
did the hearing specialist confirm that:
1. you are in fact losing your hearing
2. your itching is causing this hearing loss

saying pardon more doesn't indicate anything to me.
posted by alkupe at 12:29 PM on February 1, 2007

God, I have the exact same problem and it's making me CRAZY. I am starting to wonder if it's connected somehow to the cold drier air of winter? I think this happens more to me in winter, but I'm not sure, I just know that lately I've been going nuts.
posted by tristeza at 12:29 PM on February 1, 2007

Have you been to an ENT and an Allergist?

Sometimes low-level allergy attacks give me itchy ears.

How is it that you are loosing your hearing though? Because of scaring caused by scratching?
posted by Good Brain at 12:31 PM on February 1, 2007

When the insides of my ears itch, I dip a Q-tip in vaseline and rub in all around on the inside of my ear. It makes a bit of a mess, but doing it a couple of times per day for a couple of days makes the itch go away.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:43 PM on February 1, 2007

"...and rub it all around on the inside of my ear canal."
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:43 PM on February 1, 2007

Response by poster: I don't know if I can make a link between itching and hearing loss. It just seems that my hearing is getting progressively worse.

The hearing specialist administered a hearing test. He couldn't find anything wrong with my ears by looking around and the hearing test came back "average" and "not bad", whatever that means. He basically said there's nothing mechanically wrong and "see where it goes".. but my ears are still supremely itchy and whenever I stick a q-tip in there I wonder if I'm somehow doing more damage.

Don't know what "ENT" is and I guess allergist makes sense!.. thanks.
posted by aeighty at 12:46 PM on February 1, 2007

ENT = Ears, nose and throat
posted by estronaut at 12:51 PM on February 1, 2007

I've found bactine on a qtip helps a lot with this. The cold wetness keeps down the pleasure of scrubbing around in there and bactine has a anesthetic effect that stops the itching.
posted by subtle_squid at 12:51 PM on February 1, 2007

ENT= Ear Nose & Throat (Otolarygology)
posted by mkultra at 12:53 PM on February 1, 2007

Eczema might be the problem. I have it ONLY in my ears and believe me, it's annoying. Take a little hydrocortisone and put it on a Q-tip, then dap in the ear (lightly.)
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 1:08 PM on February 1, 2007

I have this problem too. There are a lot of things that can cause it—both internally and externally. If you do activities in/around cold winds and/or water, this can most definitely expose your delicate middle ears to damaging elements.

Also, since your sinuses drain in that area, any sickness you are fighting, seasonal allergy, or food allergy can manifest there, cause uncomfortableness or "itchy-ears". It's super common, and a good ENT will know exactly what to do!
posted by iamkimiam at 1:12 PM on February 1, 2007

I get itchy ears from allergies, and I use Benadryl cream on a Q-tip. Works pretty well. I have also used antihistamine eyedrops in a pinch, but the Benadryl cream works better.
posted by Shoeburyness at 2:00 PM on February 1, 2007

Nthing allergist and ENT.

As far as hearing loss ... this is normal for men in their mid 20s (I'm assuming you're male based on past questions). The terms 'average' and 'not bad' are pretty non-specific and unofficial, but I would guess that any hearing loss you may have is within the realm of normal variation and a bit of age-related hearing loss.

Even if you are starting to lose some hearing, it's unlikely that you'll have a huge hearing loss anytime soon. Hearing aids are pretty impressive (and discreet, if that's your thing) now, even for mild losses. Just think about protecting what you have - don't play your music too loudly, get (decent) earplugs for concerts and clubbing and such, that kind of thing. If it concerns you, go ahead and see an audiologist every few years for testing.

And for dog's sake, knock it off with the q-tips. That's just asking for trouble.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 2:11 PM on February 1, 2007

A hearing test should measure hearing over a range of tones. It's not pass/fail. Get a good test now, and another in a year to see if there's any change. Penn (Penn&Teller) Gillette has a great article about why you should use Qtips sparingly.
posted by theora55 at 2:45 PM on February 1, 2007

I have something like this and my dermatologist has confirmed that it is a form of inverse psoriasis -- extensive production of skin cells based on an autoimmune response that can be very itchy. It's also present in other "inverse" areas such as armpits and such. I've had temporary relief through the years with certain ear drops, but as I understand there is no cure, unfortunately. I haven't noticed any hearing loss except when wax builds up behind the skin. Stress can excite the problem. I've never used Q-tips. Don't trust 'em.
posted by ontic at 2:47 PM on February 1, 2007

Chronic otitis externa is chronic inflammation of the
external ear canal, outer surface of the eardrum,
and/or auricle. It is usually due to low-grade,
persistent infection of the ear canal

I think you could have this. The linked document, prepared by the National Health Service in Britain, goes on as follows:

A constant itch in the ear
Pain, if present is usually mild

Examination may show:
Lack of earwax
Dry, hypertrophic skin, which varies in thickness and often results in partial or
complete stenosis of the ear canal
Pain on manipulation of the external ear canal and auricle

and recommends:

A swab of the ear canal — to identify the causative organism and guide treatment.


While awaiting swab results, consider
Acetic acid ear-drops
Flumetasone/clioquinol ear-drops

Good Luck!
posted by jamjam at 2:50 PM on February 1, 2007

Do you grind your teeth? I had the worst ear itching and I asked my doctor to check if there was something wrong with my eardrums. I had no inflammation but she told me that bruxism can cause itching down in your ear canal. I got a mouthguard and the itching went away. If I don't wear my mouthguard, like when I'm taking a nap, the itching returns.
posted by sugarfish at 3:05 PM on February 1, 2007

I have a similiar problem, something nobody has mentioned is your showering. Do it right before bed do you? Does it happen on the side of your head that lays on the pillow?

The dampness, and if you're in a moist climate (or a moldy house), probably leads to some sort of funk / fungus.

STOP USING Q-TIPS! They're obviously aggravating your condition and could lead to hearing loss because you're jamming wax deeper into your ear. Use your pinky to scratch.

Another one, use headphones minimally. I have these closed-ear headphones which sound great, but aggravate my ear condition.

Do you have an itchy ass / scalp as well? If so, we must have similiar ailments...

All my best, I hope we all find a cure.
posted by emptyinside at 4:06 PM on February 1, 2007

I've had the same problem for the last few months, but mine is definitely an allergy (recently moved to a different part of the country). I've been taking over-the-counter allergy meds (mostly Alavert), which seems to help a bit with the itching/pain/swelling aspects. The problem is that most of mine is actually due to a build up of fluid in the eustacean tubes, causing swollen glands and sore throat, and, most importantly for your case, hearing loss. So I guess you can count me as another vote for this being possibly some sort of seasonal/food allergy. The problem is that allergies aren't easy to find/completely fix. Go to an allergist and see what they can do for you.

And please don't put a Q-tip in your ear.
posted by sleepy pete at 4:24 PM on February 1, 2007

I'm an expert ear-ologist and you should follow my advice.*

I'm guessing that your excessive use of q-tips has jammed wax further into your ear where it's dried up and started to affect your hearing. A doctor will be able to see the wax in your ear and evaluate if this is the condition. They will then direct you to get an ear wax removal kit which may be purchased at any drugstore. If, after going through the regime, you see no evidence of the wax coming out then your doctor will refer you to an ENT. The ENT will use a water pick or suction device to remove the wax. You will then be stunned by how clearly you will hear and make a promise to yourself that you will no longer jam q-tips into ear because it is "> totally unnecessary.

posted by quadog at 4:30 PM on February 1, 2007

A related problem that probably isn't yours, but might help future searchers who find this thread:

A possible explanation for itching, redness, swelling, changes in the appearance of the outer ear is relapsing polychondritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks cartilage.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:10 PM on February 1, 2007

My doctor uses a huge syringe (with no needle, of course) and flushes out stuck ear wax. I produce an excess and every few years they get plugged up.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:27 PM on February 1, 2007

I had itchy and dry scalp and ears and it was seborrheic dermatisis. Some medicated shampoo cleared it up (including a few suds in the ears).
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:23 PM on February 1, 2007

My dad gets mild eczema in his ears and finds that applying a little olive oil with a Q-tip works well.
posted by flod logic at 6:54 PM on February 2, 2007

« Older Can you hear me now? No? Dammit. How about now?   |   How should I support marriage equality? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.