The good news is that itchiness in or around the ear isn't terribly difficult to treat. It all starts with understanding what's causing the itch. 

One thing, though. Before we go any further, put down the Q-Tips. Don't try to pretend — we know you're tempted to jam one into your ear canal.

Trust us when we say that's a bad idea

With that out of the way, let's talk about a few conditions that may cause itchy ears and what you can do to treat them. 


Have you recently started using a new kind of shampoo or hair spray? Did you recently purchase a new pair of earrings or a new brand of lotion? If so, that might well be the culprit — you might have an as-yet-undiscovered allergy. 

Known as contact dermatitis, this allergic reaction causes a red, itchy rash and may be accompanied by flaking skin, hives, and mild discharge. Itching may also be caused by an allergic reaction to other irritants, such as cat dander or pollen. 

You may also experience itching due to congestion or a bad reaction to medication. 

How Is It Treated? 

Through the process of elimination, figure out what's causing the allergic reaction. You can also visit your doctor for a steroid cream that may provide some relief in the interim. Allergy medication may also help. 

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Basically, seborrheic dermatitis is a fancy name for dandruff. Although it primarily impacts the scalp, it can — in more severe cases — cause intense redness and itching around the outer ear, as well. There's a multitude of potential causes for dandruff, including: 

  • Overproduction of oil
  • A fungal infection
  • Other skin conditions (which we'll discuss more below)
  • Immunosuppression
  • Nervous system disorders

How Is It Treated? 

Ultimately, it depends on the cause. Generally, your first step is to switch your shampoo to something gentler and milder. Failing that, plenty of specially-formulated medical shampoos are designed to treat the condition. 


Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a persistent, recurring condition that causes mild to severe itching and inflammation on various parts of the body. Although it varies from person to person, common symptoms may include: 

  • Dryness
  • Rawness, inflammation, and pain
  • Thick, cracked, scaly patches
  • Intense itching
  • Hives 

Causes of eczema may include genetics, environmental factors, an overactive immune system, and stress. Eczema commonly appears behind or on the outside of the ear. In some cases, it may also manifest inside the ear canal. 

How Is It Treated?

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for eczema. Corticosteroid moisturizers prescribed by a doctor may help relieve the worst of the symptoms. Beyond that, all you can do is learn to recognize factors that may trigger an eczema outbreak and try to avoid them. 


A close cousin to eczema, psoriasis is a genetic disease that causes persistent redness, scaling, and itching on the skin. Psoriasis is usually less itchy than eczema but may also be accompanied by a stinging or burning sensation. Many of the same factors that trigger eczema may also cause psoriasis, and the condition may also result from sunburn, adverse vaccine reaction, injury, or medications. 

How Is It Treated? 

Similar to eczema, there's no cure for psoriasis, but rashes may be made less severe with topical creams prescribed by a doctor. 

Ear Infections

If your itching is accompanied by pain or discharge, there's a good chance you may be suffering from an ear infection. The most common condition affecting adults is otitis externa, or swimmer's ear, but other forms of infection may also occur. 

How Is It Treated? 

An ear infection will generally subside on its own. However, if the condition lasts more than several days, it's advisable to visit an audiologist. 


An improperly-fitted hearing aid or earbud may eventually cause irritation in the ear canal. And even a well-fitted device may cause issues due to moisture buildup. 

How Is It Treated? 

Speak to your audiologist to make sure your hearing aid is properly fitted. If you don't have a hearing aid, avoid earbuds and use over-the-ear headphones instead. 

Cerumen (Earwax) Impaction

Remember how we said not to put Q-tips in your ears? This is why. Mucking about with your earwax can cause a blockage or even result in irritation and overproduction. 

How is it Treated? 

Don't stick things in your ears that aren't meant to be there. If the blockage doesn't seem to be going away on its own, visit an audiologist or ear, nose, and throat specialist to seek treatment.