Otitis Externa and itchy ears

Otitis externa is an infection of the skin of the ear canal and is very common. It often occurs ‘out of the blue’ for no apparent reason. 

In general, the infections are caused by a bacterial infection. Occasionally, they can be due to a fungal or yeast infection and some people are more prone to infections. 

Other possible causes:

  • Skin problems. Eczema or psoriasis may affect the ear canal and cause an otitis externa.
  • Swimming, otitis externa is sometimes called swimmer’s ear.
  • Ear syringing to clear earwax. This may irritate the ear canal and cause inflammation.

What are the symptoms of otitis externa?

The symptoms of can be very severe. Pain is a often a  feature but other symptoms include itch, ear discharge, temporary dulled hearing and pain. Your ear may feel blocked or full. One or both ears can be affected.

Although it is more common for only one ear to be affected, in some cases both ears become infected.


General advice is to keep your ear dry. Use cotton wool when washing and then throw the cotton wool away after it has been in your ear. This prevents re-introducing infection. Try not to leave cotton wall balls in your ear and avoid using cotton wool sticks to clean the canal. These often traumatise the canal and can make the infection last longer.

Ear drops or sprays. There are a number of options available. It is important for Professor Winter to be able to advise you which treatments to take

Cleaning your ear. This is best done with micro suction to remove the bacterial or fungal debris.

If the infection has closed up the ear canal then drops will not get in. In these instances I would insert a wick to hold the canal wall open. This is easily removed after a couple of days. 

If the infection is very severe or there is infection in the skin around the ear (cellulitis) then you may be need oral antibiotics.

Itchy Ears

This is a common problem and may be caused by localised eczema in the ear canal. 

It can make you more prone to otitis externa.

I can suggest some simple measures to improve this in most cases. 

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