Why Do My Ears Itch?

Got an itch you just can’t scratch? It can be a frustrating experience if it’s in an unreachable location—like the inside of your ear canal, for example.

But what causes itchy ears in the first place? Allergies, aging, skin conditions and infection top the list of possible causes. However, each case of itchiness must be evaluated individually to determine both the culprit and the appropriate treatment. Read on to discover some of the main reasons this annoying sensation surfaces and learn what you can do to get some relief.

An itchy ear is a condition where a person experiences irritation, tingling and/or pain in the ear area, mainly in the ear canal. It’s an unpleasant sensitivity or discomfort. Accordingly, the immediate reaction is to try to scratch the outer ear or the location in the ear canal to relieve the feeling.

To better understand why ears feel itchy, it’s helpful to first consider the structures and functions of the outer ear.

“The outer ear is composed of two parts—the pinna that protrudes from the side of your head, also known as the ear and ear lobe, and the canal or conduit that helps direct the sound to the eardrum,” explains Bopanna Ballachanda, Ph.D., president-elect of the American Academy of Audiology. “The outer flange or pinna and the ear canal are made of the same skin that is present all over the body.”

Just like the skin on your body can sometimes feel itchy, so, too, can the skin inside your ears.

“Itchy ears are largely related to the health of the skin covering them,” says Oliver Y. Chin, M.D., an otolaryngologist with Houston ENT & Allergy, who explains that the nerve endings in our skin send signals to the brain alerting us to any issues. “This [response] is similar to when your nose itches when tickled, when we develop an allergy of our skin, when dry skin itches or after a mosquito bite.” The itch is the ear’s way of saying there might be a problem.

Read more: Forbes