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A persistent itching sensation within the ear canal is often a sign of inflammation or infection within the ear canal. Excessive cleaning, especially with an ear bud (cue tip) removes the natural wax from the ear canal. This wax is often thought to be dirt but is actually the body’s natural mechanism for lubricating the ear canal and preventing insects or microorganisms from entering the ear canal or causing an infection.

Cleaning the ear with an earbud or cue tip removes this essential wax and causes irritation of the ear lining. Fine wool¬† fibers from an ear bud may remain within the ear canal causing irritation of the skin (dermatitis). In cases where other objects, like hair pins, match sticks or pens are used to clean or ‘tickle’ the inside of the ear, the skin of the ear canal may get damaged. Tiny breaks in the skin may occur and this can easily get infected by bacteria causing inflammation that one perceives as ‘warm ears’, swollen ear canal and pain. An itchy ear canal is often a symptom of swimmer’s ear or otitis externa and may also be due to a bacterial or fungal infection or allergic reaction.

Common Cause of an Itchy Ear Canal & Water in the Ears

In chronic itchy ears, the common cause of the persistent itching besides the dryness is an ‘ear fungus’ (fungal infection of the ear canal) With little or no wax lining the ear canal, fungal spores quickly enter and germinate within the ear canal. Some common symptoms of a fungal infection within the ear canal (ear fungus) include :

  • Persistent itching with short term relief from scratching.
  • Small amounts of moisture noted when cleaning or scratching the ear. This water like fluid may have a foul odor and is usually due to the fungus and not water trapped in the ear after bathing.
  • Less commonly, the sufferer may find tiny white or cream colored flecks on an ear bud when cleaning the ear – this may be scales of skin or parts of the fungus.
  • In severe cases, with a secondary bacterial infection that is spreading, an itchy throat or even poor balance may be experienced. This occurs due to the inflammation of the eustachian tube that connects the middle ear to the throat or infection of the middle ear that is responsible for balance.

Itching of the ear canal may also be due to an allergy, eczema or even acne but this is less common than an ear fungus.

Treatment for an Itchy Ear Canal & Water in the Ears

  • Stop cleaning the ear canal with an ear bud. The ear canal was never meant to be cleaned and the wax within it is not dirt. In cases of excessive wax or impacted wax, consult with your doctor to have a water syringe solution inserted and extracted under proper medical supervision.
  • Use of vegetable or peanut oil placed within the ear for a few minutes may help with soothing the skin of the ear canal and assist with restoring normal wax production. This should be done cautiously and not repeated often or in cases of other ear disorders like a perforated ear drum, it should not be done at all.
  • Avoid getting water in the ear especially salt or chlorinated water like pool water. Chlorinated water has a drying effect and will increase dryness of the skin within the ear canal. Always use ear plugs when swimming.
  • If there is inflammation or infection of the ear canal, consult with a medical practitioner immediately. Your doctor may use antimicrobial ear drops or pack your ear with a corticosteroid impregnated ear pack to reduce swelling.
  • Do not use natural anti-fungals like tea tree oil as this can exacerbate the skin dryness. Any alcohol solution will have the same effect and can aggravate the problem further.

If you are unsure about the cause of your itchy ear canal or water in the ears, consult with your medical practitioner rather than attempting to treat the problem on your own. An itchy ear canal may have multiple causes and no single remedy can resolve this problem.