Does mineral oil help stop itching in the ears?

Doctor of Audiology in Kailua

26 February 2020 - 504 Views

I'm not aware of any high quality scientific study that has shown this to be the case, but the majority of my patients who have used Miracell have reported improvement or total elimination of itching. Miracell claims to contain numerous oils including apricot kernel oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, and jojoba oil. I'm not sure how they came up with this formula, but I think the mechanism of itchiness relief comes down to moisturization of dry skin. In the ear canal, overly dry skin can be caused overly aggressive rubbing of Q-tips.

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Cynthia Modrosic, AuD

Audiologist

26 February 2020 - 497 Views

It depends on what is causing the itching. If it is dry skin, mineral oil or sweet oil (olive oil) can help with that. If the cause is allergies or an infection, it will not. I have had patients whose itchy ears goes away when their hearing aids are regularly and consistently disinfected. If allergies or an infection are the cause, I would recommend seeing an ENT for an evaluation and recommendation. I have used drops that helped with itchy ears from allergies, but it is prescription only. Finally, if the itching is caused by an infection, remember to disinfect your hearing aids daily using a hearing aid safe method.
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Charles Darby PhD, MA, BC-HIS, BC-HIS

Hearing Healthcare Provider

26 February 2020 - 437 Views

In reading through the responses from others, I agree with those conclusions.  However, I want to add just a bit more to help with understanding what may be going on with an itchy ear.  Typically a healthy ear will not itch!  I've found that the oils mentioned in the other posts can indeed help in certain situations (mostly with dry skin) but it seems to be a temporary fix .  A healthy ear has a healthy keratin layer coating the ear canal.  This keratin layer protects the layer of skin below it.  Not meaning to be a commercial for Miracell's ProEar but I've found that this product does indeed promote the growth of a healthy keratin layer.  So it stands to reason that if the skin is protected by a layer of keratin, it tends to be softer, more pliable, and less dry than an unprotected canal.  I've even tried using this to treat patients with an initial allergic reaction to aids, buds, earpieces, or other devices worn in the ear canal.  In most cases the allergy is no longer an issue (since keratin blocks the device from touching the skin).  I caution though, that any continued redness, swelling, or discomfort be addressed by an ENT.  Infections of the ear canal can become serious.  Err on the side of caution rather than wait for possible additional issues.
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Danica Billingsly, AuD

Doctor of Audiology

26 February 2020 - 497 Views

There's more to it than a yes or no answer, unfortunately. Itchy ears can have a number of causes, anywhere from allergy to infection. It's important that the root cause of any prolonged or intrusive itchiness be addressed first with a qualified provider (i.e. family practice, ENT or dermatology), particularly if there is also pain or swelling involved. Itchiness can also be related to cerumen (earwax) problems, which can be addressed by ENT or audiology. 

Most management plans for chronically itchy ears will include maintenance of a slightly lower ear canal pH level, treatment of any underlying allergic response, treatment of inflammation, then management of dry skin.

If itchiness is only in the areas touched by the hearing aid's earpiece, it's important to address any allergic responses by working with your provider to obtain a hypoallergenic device coating/casing/alternative. You might want to reduce exposure to shampoos/conditioners and hair products in/around the ears as well.

If all medical needs have been addressed and the current goal is just to manage dry skin induced itchiness, then yes, 1-2 drops of mineral oil per ear once a week has been suggested as a form of management. 

It's usually best when handling itchy responses to reduce the amount of things the body is exposed to. Baby oil can be any number of different things, and often contains a mixture of oils (almond, sunflower seed, olive etc.) in addition to fragrances. Mineral oil, on the other hand, is just mineral oil. Pharmaceutical sweet oil (as opposed to health/beauty "sweet oil") is national formulary standardized olive oil. 

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Diana K. Wise-McPherson, AuD

Doctor of Audiology

27 February 2020 - 300 Views

Please take into account all the above statements made by my esteemed colleagues.  I will not reiterate what they stated.  My short and sweet answer to itchy ears is a great home remedy.  Take white vinegar and mix 50/50 with distilled water.  Put drops in ear(s) by soaking a cotton ball or using an eye dropper.  Let excess drain out of the canal.  Use as needed.  I truly hope this helps!  (Please also remember to never put any kind of drops into your ear if you have a perforation - unless prescribed by your physician.)
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Rachel Bringewatt, AuD

Doctor of Audiology

26 February 2020 - 475 Views

What Cynthia Modrosic said is so true-it depends on what is causing the itching. I have patients use a few drops of mineral oil (baby oil is also often used by ENT physicians to keep flaky dry wax or skin from itching and becoming hard/difficult to remove) once or twice a week before bed if the ear canals are dry or there are issues with flaky wax or skin. I have had patients with  psoriasis of the ear canal, a true dermatitis, fungal, and bacterial infections. I will have them see an Ear Nose and Throat physician for treatment. Regular disinfection of hearing aids can help reduce these issues as well. I have also used Miracell with patients and it works very well-it is just more expensive than mineral oil.

I hope this is helpful!

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Audiologist in Chesterfield

26 February 2020 - 504 Views

I told patients to use baby oil for years as recommended by one of my supervisors.  My patients said it didn't help.  I tried it myself and it didn't help.  My coworker suggests using hand lotion with Aloe in it.  I put a little on a qtip and that helped a lot.  More recently I have recommended Miracell drops.  You can find them at a pharmacy but a lot of Audiologist keep it in stock as well.  It is an oily drop and it is backed by research to help repair the sensitive skin in the ear canal.

I personally think its a little strange to use an oil for cooking (mineral, sweet, olive) in the ears.  But a lot of people do say it helps.  The purpose of any oily drops in ears is to moisturize dry skin.  Do not use any drops in your ears if you have a tube or hole in your eardrum.  Otherwise all the options discussed should not be harmful to try.

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Gregory Boese, HIS

Hearing Instrument Specialist

26 February 2020 - 513 Views

My experience has found mineral oil or hypoallergenic baby oil is helpful to relieve itching in the ear.

Before retiring at night put a small amount of the oil on the tip of your little finger

and rub the inside of the canal. In the morning when you wake the oil will have been absorbed into the skin and give some relief

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