Is the itchiness in your ears annoying you since starting to use your hearing aids? The skin of the ear canal is very sensitive and delicate. Therefore, a common consequence of using hearing aids is itchiness. This post will help you understand the common causes of irritation of the skin and will give you tips on how to treat it.
Why Are My Hearing Aids Irritating My Ears?
Your ears are itching, the skin is dry, and you take out your hearing aids several times a day because of discomfort. It is essential to understand why this happens and the relationship between hearing aids and ear irritation.
Hearing aids are small electronic devices that amplify and optimise sound for people with hearing loss. Many hearing aids are worn close to the ear canal’s skin, with ear moulds or open-fit silicone domes. Some hearing aids also fit entirely inside the ear canal.
That is why the skin in the ear canal is prone to irritation from the hearing aid parts. The accumulation of sweat skin particles and natural oils rubbing against the hearing aid can irritate the skin.
Common Causes of Ear Discomfort from Hearing Aids
There are different reasons why your hearing aids may be irritating your skin. Some users may grow accustomed to the itching sensation, but some conditions won’t go without help. Here are some of the most common reasons:
Skin conditions: Having the ear canal constantly blocked by or in contact with a piece of plastic can exacerbate conditions such as psoriasis, eczema or dermatitis. In those cases, a doctor can prescribe an ointment to relieve the itchiness and redness that often goes with it.
Allergic reactions to hearing aid materials: Most earmolds are made of plastic or silicone, but the acrylic material can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Moisture and sweat buildup: sweating and itchy ears with hearing aids
Ear canal irritation due to improper fit: improperly fitted hearing aids and ear irritation. Signs of ill-fitting hearing aids. Adjusting hearing aids for ear canal comfort.
Earwax accumulation and blockage: earwax accumulation and hearing aid irritation. Safe methods for earwax removal.
Identifying and Preventing Allergic Reactions
How do you recognise the signs of an allergic reaction to hearing aid components? An allergic reaction will show inflammation and redness, a sore sensation in the skin, and even discharge in the ears. The discomfort sometimes prevents the user from wearing their hearing aids.
Here are some tips to prevent allergic responses:
1. Keep an ear-cleaning routine.
Your ears naturally accumulate earwax and debris daily. If you don’t clean it frequently, it can cause itchiness, irritation and even cause issues with your hearing. That’s why it is essential to clean your hearing aids regularly and to keep your ear canal clean. Ask your ENT and audiologist how to clean your ears properly without using materials that can push the wax into the ear canal.
Book a free online appointment with your Auzen audiologist for more information.
2. Choose hypoallergenic hearing aid materials.
Earmolds are made of hard or soft biocompatible materials that don’t irritate the ear skin. Ultra-violet resin—used for hard earmolds and ear shells— and silicone—used for soft moulds, are usually safe. Sadly, some people can be allergic to these materials.
Your hearing aids should be cleaned regularly with specific hypoallergenic cleaning products to prevent an allergic reaction to other cleaning products. You can find a variety of cleaning wipes and sprays designed especially for hearing aids at the auzen.com shop.
3. Avoid contact with allergens.
Some people are allergic to pollen, dust or pet hair particles, which can result in an allergic reaction in the ear skin. If that’s your case, minimise the exposure to these allergens, for instance, by using air filters, hoovering regularly and staying inside on days with a high pollen alert.
4. See an allergist.
If your ears still itch after following these steps, it may be time to visit an allergist. An allergist can isolate the allergen and recommend an adequate treatment to manage your allergy.
Managing Moisture and Sweat Buildup
Sweat and moisture are a natural part of our bodies. However, moisture buildup in the earmould of your hearing aid can lead to bacterial growth and irritate your ears. So when cleaning and caring for your hearing aids, it is essential to keep them dry.
Here are some tips for keeping hearing aids dry and clean:
- Use a hearing aid dehumidifier. You can use a hearing aid dryer with UV light to kill bacteria. This electronic case dries and sanitises your hearing aids but can be expensive.
- You can also use drying kits. They usually consist of a dehumidifier container with desiccant tablets, which take all the moisture out of the hearing aids.
Best practices for storing hearing aids overnight:
- Keep the hearing aids in the same place every night to avoid misplacing them.
- Don’t store hearing aids in places with high humidity, such as a bathroom cabinet.
- When taking them off for the night, wipe them with a soft cloth and check for earwax that can be lodged in the mould.
Ensuring Proper Fit for Ear Canal Comfort
Both wearers of mould or open-fit hearing aids can experience discomfort and irritation if the hearing aid is poorly fitted. For example, moisture or bacteria can grow in empty spaces if the dome or the mould is the wrong size. If the ear mould is too loose, it can cause feedback and whistling.
The importance of professional hearing aid fitting
Everyone’s ear canal is different, so it is crucial to have your hearing aids professionally fitted. An audiologist will typically measure your ears with a moulding paste and create a custom ear canal mould. For open-fit hearing aids, there are several sizes of silicone moulds, which the audiologist will help you try on until you find the one that feels most comfortable.
How to identify an ill-fitting hearing aid?
Signs of ill-fitted hearing aids are:
- The hearing aid frequently falls out.
- The hearing aid has feedback.
- You experience irritation and itchiness in your ear canal.
Safely Removing Earwax and Blockages
Every ear produces earwax, one of the most common causes of a hearing aid malfunctioning. When earwax accumulates, there can be irritation and itchiness.
While new hearing aids come with built-in earwax filters and guards, which the user can replace, if your hearing aid has a wax guard, you should inspect it for signs of blockage.
Every day when taking out your hearing aids, inspect the mould or dome for any earwax clogging the sound bore. Also, inspect the tubing if you wear a Behind-the-Ear hearing aid.
When to seek professional ear-cleaning assistance? If you are experiencing discomfort and your cleaning routine cannot dislodge the earwax, You can schedule a videochat or call your Auzen audiologist for step by step guidance in cleaning and maintenance of your hearing aids.
If you have too much earwax in your ears, it can also cause skin irritation. It is important never to introduce a sharp object into your ears as much as it itches. The same applies to cotton swabs, which can push the earwax deeper into the ear canal.
Home Remedies for Soothing Itchy Ears
Before consulting with an audiologist, you can try some natural solutions for ear irritation relief. You can try over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or antihistaminic if the cause of your itchiness is allergies.
Otherwise, you can try a few drops of natural oils, like coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba oil or vitamin E, which will create a protective line in your skin and prevent moisture from irritating it. Keep in mind that if you wear RIC or CIC hearing aids, oils can damage the receiver. You can also use products like Otoease, Miracell or Eargene to soothe the skin.
When to Consult an Audiologist or Hearing Specialist
Certain signs indicate the need for a professional evaluation if you are a hearing aid user. If you notice itchiness and discomfort, your audiologist will evaluate and adjust your hearing aid style or material to alleviate the symptoms. It is crucial to avoid scratching because it can lead to infection.
Besides adjusting your hearing aids, an audiologist can conduct a professional cleaning of your hearing aid or substitute the material if it is giving you an allergic reaction.
In any case, it is essential for your ear health to attend regular checkups and ear examinations by your ENT. If the discomfort doesn’t disappear after adjusting your hearing aids, we recommend you see the ENT to rule out other possible physical causes.
What’s Next? Prevention Tips for Long-Term Ear HealtH
Keeping your ears clean and dry is the first defence against itchiness. So, maintaining a routine to smooth your ear skin can minimise your ear irritation, for instance, by applying topical creams or oils to prevent dryness. Going to the ENT to get your ears cleaned regularly can help with extra wax and moisture buildup.
Finally, practising hearing aid hygiene and following your audiologist’s instructions will minimise the chance of your ear's skin getting irritated.
At Auzen, our audiologists can recommend hearing aids that fit perfectly in hypoallergenic materials to minimise discomfort.