How to Stop Earbuds from Itching (Causes and Solutions)


If your ears start to itch after some time when you wear your earbuds, it can ruin the music listening or movie watching experience. Since it’s not possible to resist the urge to itch inside your ear canal, wearing your earbuds can become annoying if you don’t address the problem. There can be a number of reasons for itchy ears since your ears are fairly sensitive to touch and may get affected by other underlying factors. 

To stop earbuds from itching, you must figure out the cause and apply the appropriate solution. The most common solutions include cleaning your ears and earbuds to prevent wax build-up, using lubrication to solve the issue of dry skin, and replacing the earbuds. For other underlying factors, you may have to seek medical help.

Here are a few reasons why your ears may itch when you wear earbuds:

Wax build-up

Our ears naturally produce wax and it acts as a self-cleaning mechanism. Typically, when too much wax builds up inside your ear canal, it automatically comes out through your ear in a spiral pattern. Along the way, the wax picks up any foreign particles and dead skin cells that could otherwise, cause harm to your ears.

However, if you wear earbuds for long periods every day, the wax cannot get out naturally and accumulates inside your ear canal entrance. As a result, your ear can feel itchy or even painful.

This is more common for people who have more bendy or narrow ear canals.

Dirty earbuds

The tips of your earbuds can get very dirty if you don’t clean them periodically. In fact, you can always expect your earbuds to get dirty if your ears are dirty as well. It might also be the case if you regularly share your earbuds with other people and they have dirty ears. When you use dirty earbuds, it can introduce a lot of foreign particles inside your ears which can make them very sensitive, itchy, or even lead to an allergic reaction or infection.

Dry ears

Although having too much earwax inside your ear canals can cause problems, having too little of it can also cause issues. Earwax helps to clean your ears and also acts as a natural lubricant that protects the sensitive skin of the ear canal and also prevents bacterial or fungal infection.

So, if you have a habit of constantly cleaning your ears using cotton swabs or other objects, you are causing your ears more harm than good. Overcleaning removes the layer of protective wax inside your ear canals which makes them dry and itchy. In the absence of the natural lubrication of the earwax, your ear canals become more irritated when you wear earbuds.

Allergic reaction

Some people are more prone to suffering from an allergic reaction than others. An allergic reaction often results in an inflammation of the lining of the ear canal and the pathway that connects the throat to the ear (eustachian tube). As a result, the region around your ear canal can become very itchy. Basically, it’s the same histamine response by the body that causes watery eyes, hives, and sneezing. 

The cause of the allergy can be as simple as food, metal earrings, personal care products, or even the silicone ear tips of your ear buds.

Ear infection

Itchy ears are often the early symptoms of ear infection, especially if it’s accompanied by ear pain and fluid discharge. Fungal and bacterial ear infections can be caused due to a number of reasons such as too much ear wax build-up, dirty ears, and constant humidity inside the ear canals.

The most common type of ear infection is known as acute otitis externa which happens when water gets trapped inside the ear. The condition is also known as swimmer’s ear because swimmers often suffer from this problem. However, it can also happen to you if you have a habit of wearing your waterproof earbuds during bathing or swimming.

Skin conditions

Some people suffer from skin conditions that can lead to itchy skin even inside the ear canals. Typically, these include psoriasis, eczema, and contact dermatitis. The symptoms may include patches of red, inflamed, and itchy rash in and around the ears. Wearing earbuds can aggravate the skin condition and cause the skin around the ear to become even itchier.

Here are a few tips to follow to stop or prevent your ears from itching when you wear earbuds:

Clean your earbuds

It is crucial to clean your earbuds periodically to remove wax build-up, dirt, or debris that can cause your ear canal to become itchy when you wear them. Here is how to clean your earbuds:

  • Carefully remove the silicone or foam tips of your earbuds.
  • Gently scrape the wire mesh of your earbuds with a soft toothbrush to remove the dirt that is stuck to them.
  • Gently tap the other end of the ear tip to dislodge the dirt as much as possible.
  • Put some isopropyl alcohol or disinfecting spray on a piece of clean cloth and use it to gently wipe the ear tip. Alternately, you can use cotton swabs to clean the ear buds.
  • Repeat the steps with the other tip.
  • Clean the ear tips with the cotton swabs or soaked cloth as well and then put them back on.

You should also stop sharing your earbuds with other people as it is unhygienic for ear health. If the ears of the other person are dirty, sharing your earbuds with them can introduce more dirt and even bacteria to your ear canal.

Keep your ears clean

If your ears feel blocked up, it could be a sign of too much wax accumulation inside the ear canal. Here is how to clean ear wax:

  • Put a few drops of ear wax removal solution such as Debrox or hydrogen peroxide inside your ears.
  • Lay on your side and wait for a few minutes to let the solution act on your ear wax to soften it up. You may hear some fizzy sound inside your ear.
  • Clean your ears using a clean cloth. 
  • You may have to repeat this procedure 2 times a day for 4-5 days depending on the amount of wax build-up inside your ear. 
  • If you cannot clean the ear wax even after using Debrox or hydrogen peroxide, visit a doctor instead of using other cleaning tools. 

Never use Q-tips, cotton swabs, toothpicks, or any other objects to clean your ears. These cleaning tools only work for cleaning the outer ear. However, it can also push the ear wax further inside the ear canal, causing your more harm than good. In the worst-case scenario, it can even perforate the eardrum.

Stop overcleaning your ears

As we discussed earlier, ear wax acts as a water-repellant, anti-microbial, and also helps to lubricate and protect the skin of the ear canal. Plus, our ears are self-cleaning. Thus, it is healthy to have some amount of earwax present. So, it is not necessary or recommended to clean your ears every day as doing so can irritate the skin and cause infection.

Replace the earbud tips or earbuds

If your ears start to itch even after you wear clean earbuds and you are sure that your ears are clean as well, it could be a sign of an allergic reaction to the material of the earbud itself. In such cases, your only option is to replace the earbuds or earbud tips with a hypoallergenic material if you can. 

Earbuds that feature hypoallergenic ear tips are much less likely to cause an allergic reaction or itchiness. 

Seek medical attention

If your ears itch even when you don’t wear earbuds and the symptoms only aggravate when you wear earbuds, it signals a more serious underlying issue. In such cases, you could be suffering from an infection or skin condition and it is recommended that you visit a doctor asap to prevent any further damage.

Your doctor may recommend an antibiotic ointment to combat microbial growth, steroidal topical ointment to relieve inflammation, baby oil to soften the skin, and ear drops to remove extra ear wax.

If you are suffering from allergic eczema, you have to undergo allergy testing and stop using certain products such as your earrings that could cause the allergy. And, if you suffer from dry ears, you have to apply moisturizers such as lotions, ointments, or creams to restore moisture to your skin.

Conclusion

Many people suffer from itchy ears and want a quick solution to the problem. Sometimes, the solution is as easy as keeping your ears clean, cleaning your earbuds, or replacing the earbuds. Unfortunately, if you suffer from a genetic disorder or health condition that causes issues such as flaky earwax, the buildup of dead skin cells, or production of excess ear wax, you have to look at long term lifestyle changes and seek medical help.

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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