Dry ear canal symptoms

Written by lauren fitzpatrick
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Dry ear canal symptoms
Dry, itchy ears can affect anyone. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Cameron Cassan)

A dry ear canal can be very irritating. This condition affects people of all ages and lifestyles, but swimmers and people in hot, humid conditions are particularly prone to it. Fortunately, this common condition is treatable, and steps can be taken to prevent it. If you have any symptoms of dry ear canal, see a doctor for professional medical advice.

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Identification

A dry ear canal is often recognisable because of a constant itchy sensation in the ear. On top of the itchiness, dry ears may also produce flakes of dead skin around the opening to the ear canal. If the dry canal is related to water trapped in it, you may also have pain or muffled hearing.

Causes

Normal ears have a layer of natural oil, creating earwax. Sometimes, a person's ear will not produce any earwax, which will lead to dry, itchy skin in the ear. Excessive cleaning of the ears can also strip the ear of its natural wax and cause dry ears. Skin diseases such as eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis can also cause itching in the ears. A dry ear canal can even result from the psychosomatic manifestation of nerves, occuring when people scratch their ears out of anxiety.

Misconceptions

Itchy ears are also a symptom of conditions unrelated to a dry ear canal, such as a slight build-up of debris or a dead hair in the ear. Occasionally, a plastic hearing aid can spark an allergic reaction in the ears, creating symptoms similar to that of a dry ear canal. Hearing aids sometimes put pressure on the ear canal, resulting in an itchy, irritated feeling. They may also prevent water from escaping from the ear, causing an itch or annoyance.

Prevention/Solution

Keep the ear dry and free of moisture. Instead of cleaning with cotton swabs, schedule an appointment every six months with a doctor to have an ear cleaning. If the dry ear is related to a hearing aid, try a different type. If your ear canal does not produce enough wax, try putting two drops of olive oil into the ear every two days.

Considerations

A dry ear canal can be an indication of a more serious ear infection, particularly if the skin is cracked and irritated. This is sometimes known as "swimmer's ear," which is caused by moisture that is trapped in the ear canal, found frequently, of course, in swimmers. The skin of the outer ear that lines the ear canal up to the eardrum becomes infected and must be treated by a doctor. Treatments may include eardrops or drainage through a tube and perforation in the ear.

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