Learn what causes dry ear canals and how to treat them

Dry ears can have many causes that range from not being able to produce enough earwax to cleaning the ears too much. If you have some dead skin inside ear it might just be seasonal dryness, but if the issue persists dry ears can also be a type of skin allergy as well as other dry skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. The worst part about a dry ear canal is the accompanying itch, but some people worry about the appearance of loose, dry flaky skin around the ear. Although irritating, this problem is usually easy to treat.

What causes dry ear canals?

Dry ear canal causes are very similar and related to skin conditions that affect other parts of the body including:

  • Eczema: This is an extremely irritating condition that can occur in the ear canal, but it is usually also found on the patient’s nose and scalp.
  • Psoriasis: This is an autoimmune disorder that causes skin cells to grow faster than they are shed. The result is itchy, dry, scaly patches and underlying redness, affecting the outer ear, scalp, and neck. 
  • Dermatitis: This is very common and also includes dandruff. This is inflammation of the skin, usually caused by an allergic reaction to shampoos or skin-cleansing products. 

People who use hearing aids or wear in-ear headphones for prolonged periods may develop dry ears due to the device irritating by rubbing against the delicate and sensitive skin in and around the ear. The materials that headphones and  hearing aids are made from can also cause an allergic reaction.

Dry ears are also commonly the result of over-cleaning. Earwax is healthy and helps protect your ear, if you clean it too frequently you might actually be causing the irritation. 

Dry ear canal treatment

Eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis in the ear are treated in the same way, as they would be in other parts of the body, but the choice of treatment usually depends on the underlying problem. If you have dry skin in ear canal you might be well served by an over-the-counter steroid cream or ear drops with an oily component and an anti-inflammatory steroid. Together, these relieve the itching and can help restore the moisture balance in cases of dry ears that are not infectious.

Depending on the underlying cause, a doctor may prescribe antifungal eardrops or oral antibiotics for dry ear canal treatment.

Gentle ear cleaning can be helpful if dry ears are the result of dry or windy weather conditions. The goal is to remove irritants, like dust while keeping the ear’s natural moisture balance. In extreme climates, both hot and cold, petroleum jelly, or other skin moisturizers, can help soothe and moisturize dry ears. Knowing how to moisturize ear canals properly is important, as using  alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or vinegar may help reduce the itch, but usually will not relieve dryness.  

Like we have said many times before, cotton swabs are not recommended as they are prone to over-clean the ear and can push debris further down the ear canal, increasing the chance of irritation or infection. A healthy ear is self-cleaning and does not normally require manual or invasive cleaning.

Purchase a ScopeAround otoscope ear camera

Ears are difficult to see inside, especially if you are trying to self diagnose an itch. The best method is to look inside with a digital otoscope to get a clear view of any dead skin in ear canal or other maladies like redness or wax accumulation. Once you see what it looks like you can make a better self diagnosis. If you have a chronic issue make an appointment with a doctor in case you need an anti-fungal to anti-bacterial treatment. Scopearound makes a range of otoscope cameras that work with different mobile devices, computers, or all by themselves to give you a safe and clear view of your ear, nose, throat or even skin.