When one has crusty ears, this may result to discomforts and embarrassment. Having dry, crusty, flaky ears could mean a number of things. It may be something as simple like excess buildup of earwax or disease infection such as seborrheic dermatitis. When you have crusty ears and suspect that it may be as a result of some disease, see a doctor.

In other cases, it may be something you use that is causing some allergic reaction such as cleanser, lotion, toner, or shampoo. At other times, it may occur due to changes in weather and dryness of the skin around the ears.

Symptoms of flaky ears

Flaky ear causes

Crusty ear symptoms

Those ears that are crusty caused due to ear rashes are often similar to skin rashes affecting other areas of the body. Some of the signs and symptoms that may accompany crusty ears are listed below:

  • The affected skin on the ear may experience blistering, spots, grainy lumps, or tiny bumps development especially behind the ears. The skin rashes may occasionally be full of fluids, resulting in irritation, itchiness, and pain.
  • Formation of pimple-like growths may also appear on the area. Such growths may multiply over time.
  • Also a swelling or inflammation of the rash area may form. The skin behind the ears may become reddish or pinkish in colour.
  • When crusty ears is accompanied by vomiting, fever, etc. along with skin rashes, then it may be an indication of some underlying health disorder which may need to be addressed by a doctor.

Crusty Ear Canal Causes

When you have a dry skin in ear area, it is nothing anyone would want to have especially if the skin is itchy, flaky and crusty.  Here we are going to talk more about what causes itchy ears and dry skin in the ear canal. Flaky or crusty ears is not a life threatening condition, but living with the signs and symptoms can be a bother.

After carrying out more research on this, we have more information on what causes dry skin inside the ear canal. Read below to understand flaking in the ear better from what causes, what to do and what not to when your ear is itching, and finally treatment with home cures.

Causes of crusty ears

Some of the common causes and respective symptoms and treatments of crusty ears are listed below:

Varied infections

Crusty ears may result from bacterial, fungal, or viral infections of the skin on the ears. For example, improperly done ear piercings are at increased risk to developing bacterial infections. Patients with ear infections may experience itchiness, redness, and skin scaling.

Treatment

Bacterial and fungal infections are respectively treated with topical and/or oral antibiotics or antifungals. Maintaining good hygiene is also recommended.

Dermatitis

Contact or atopic dermatitis are often caused due to irritation or an allergic reaction to some chemicals. Patients may experience inflammation, itchiness, and redness.

Treatment

Crusty ears caused by dermatitis are treated with topical or oral drugs, antibiotics, or phototherapy. Home treatments include avoidance of harsh soaps, moisturizing the skin on a daily basis, wearing clothes that are light and made of soft fabrics, use of humidifiers, and using ice packs.

Seborrheic dermatitis

This is a dermatological condition cause dandruff-like white skin flaking and scaling. Along with flaky ears, especially on the back part of ear or ear creases, patients may experience itchiness, dry skin, and discomfort. The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not clear, but certain factors like stress, cold weather, malassezia yeast infection, Parkinson’s disease, and/or HIV/AIDS can trigger or aggravate it.

Treatment

This kind of disease is treatable but cannot be cured. Hence, patients tend to experience flare-ups at regular intervals. Treatment involves daily, careful, and through washing of the affected section of ear skin with medicated shampoos and soaps.

Eczema

Eczema is a persistent skin disorder usually seen by rashes, redness, itching, and inflammation of skin. A doctor may treat it with lifestyle changes and topical and oral medications.

Heat rash

This is a skin condition that is caused by blockage of sweat glands which causes moisture and sweat to get trapped under the skin. The affected person may experience the formation of tiny bumps on skin, itchy and crusty ears, flaking skin, and redness.

Treatment

This may involve keeping the skin dry which is the best treatment option. Use prickly heat powders, keep the skin moisturized and hydrated, use humidifiers, and follow other guidelines to prevent excessive sweating and exposure to heat. Severe heat rashes are treated with medications.

Psoriasis

Crusty ears symptoms

Flaky ear skin

This skin disorder is marked by irritation, itchiness, redness, abnormal patchy and flaking skin, and development of scaly white areas on the skin.

Treatment is focused on containing the rash and preventing infections. Topical and oral medications may be prescribed along with injections. Phototherapy may also be used in certain cases.

Measles

This viral infection is another cause of crusty ears. Patients may develop a fever along with skin rashes on the forehead and behind the ears; the rash occurs as patches of small, pinkish, flat spots.

Treatment

Medications are used for alleviation of pain and fever. Ear infections are treated with antibiotics. Home remedies include keeping hydrated, salt water gargling, sufficient rest, and cold compresses.

Bacterial meningitis

This is a serious condition that requires urgent medical care. One of the most common symptoms is the development of a purplish to reddish rash. Late treatment can increase the risk to development of life-threatening complications.

Treatment

The condition is treated with antibiotics, painkillers, and sedatives. Vaccines are the best way to prevent/avoid this cause of crusty ears.

Chickenpox

This contagious disease is marked by formation of itching distinctive blisters or sores that initially develop on the face, along with cough, fever, and headaches and can cause crusty ears as well.

Treatment

The infection is treated with antivirals and topical medications. Home remedies include increased intake of fluids, not scratching the blisters, maintenance of good hygiene, and use of anti-itch creams, etc. Vaccination is the best way to prevent crusty ears-causing chickenpox.

Folliculitis

This is infection of the hair follicles and is characterized by itching skin rashes on the ears, irritation, redness, and blister formation.

Treatment

As per the seriousness of the infection, crusty ears caused by folliculitis may be treated in varied ways including use of antifungals or antibiotics.

Middle ear infection

This condition is also called chronic otitis media, it is caused due to viral or bacterial infection and multiplication of the fluid that accumulates in the middle ear. Along with crusty ears and skin rash, patients may experience chills, fever, pus drainage, and ear fullness and pain.

Treatment

This is dependent on the symptoms and its severity. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed for fever and pain alleviation. Excess fluids may need to be drained via surgery. Sufficient hydration and rest can help the overall healing and recovery process.

Dry skin

This is whereby, loss of moisture from skin can cause crusty ears, itchiness, and scaling. Dryness of the skin on the ears may occur due to varied underlying conditions.

Treatment of dry skin is dependent on diagnosis of the underlying caused. Intake or water and fluids, moisturizing the skin, and use of OTC lotions and creams is suggested for alleviation of dry skin.

Otis Externa

Also called ‘swimmers ear,’ is the condition marked by inflammation of the outer ear and the ear canal. Patients may develop a skin rash at the back part of the ear, crusty ears, and itchiness.

Treatment

The condition is treated with antifungal medications, antibiotics, ear drops, and hot compresses, etc.

Crusty Behind Ears

crust behind ears

Rash and dry skin behind ear

Crusty ears is a symptom of some kind of skin rash or other underlying conditions that affect the ears, including the external and internal regions as well as the surrounding areas. Some of the common causes of flaky behind ears may range from environmental reaction to allergens that area harmful to the skin or diseases such as seborrheic dermatitis.

In case you are a victim of crusty ears, you may try some home remedies discussed below or if the case is serious, visit your skin doctor.

Crusty Ear Discharge

Your infected ear may start to ooze some smelly crusty discharge. This is really a symptom of your condition being severe. The crusty form of the discharge usually is due to the drying of the discharge, or it is a sign that the condition has taken sometime in your ear. It is very important to see your doctor in case you feel your ears being itchy as this may be the early signs of this condition.

Types of Ear Discharge

  • Pus or Cloudy Fluid. This is the most common type of ear discharge. The main cause is an ear infection. The drainage is from a torn eardrum. The eardrum ruptures in about 10% of bacterial ear infections.
  • Ear Tube Fluid Release. Children with frequent ear infections may get ventilation tubes put in. These help the middle ear drain its fluids and become dry. Sometimes, the ear tube gets plugged up. Normal fluids build up in the middle ear until the ear tube opens up again. This can cause some clear fluid drainage from the ear canal for a day.
  • Earwax. Earwax is light brown, dark brown, or orange brown in colour. If it gets wet, it can look like a discharge.
  • Blood. This follows an injury to the ear. Usually, it’s just a minor scratch of the lining of the ear canal.
  • Water. Bath water or tears can get in the ear canal. Seeing a clear “discharge” that happens once is likely this.
  • Ear Drops. The person who sees the discharge may not know someone else put in drops.
  • Swimmer’s Ear Discharge. Early symptoms are an itchy ear canal. Later symptoms include a whitish, watery discharge. Mainly occurs in swimmers and in the summer time.
  • Ear Canal Foreign Body (Object). Young children may put small objects in their ear canal. It can cause a low grade infection and pus coloured discharge. If the object was sharp, the discharge may have streaks of blood.

Crusty Ear Wax

A number of people think earwax is unsanitary, but surprisingly, your ears would be even dirtier without it. Earwax collects dirt, oils and dead skin cells as they make their way through your ear canal. At the end of the canal, the wax turns dry and flaky, then falls out of your ear by itself. If you have too much wax, though, you may want to remove it before it builds up.

Contrary to popular numerous believes, a cotton-tipped swab doesn’t help get out the flaky earwax. In fact, it may push wax further back into the ear canal adding more problems to your situation. Remove excess earwax safely to avoid harming your delicate ears.

How to remove crusty ears wax

Step 1

Soak a cotton ball with an over-the-counter ear drop solution. Or use baby oil, hydrogen peroxide, saline solution or mineral oil. Use water-based products to break up earwax and oil-based ones to soften the wax so it slides out easily.

Step 2

You have to do this while you tilt your head to one side so the opening of your ear faces up, then hold the cotton ball over your ear canal. Do not push the cotton ball into the canal. Hold your head in this position for about a minute. This allows the liquid to drip into your ear canal and loosen or break apart the wax.

Step 3

Tilt your head to the other side to allow the wax to drain out. Use a cloth or tissue to collect the liquid and wax as it comes out.

Step 4

If your ears still feel clogged, fill a bulb syringe with water and squirt some water into the ear canal to help remove any remaining wax.

Step 5

Repeat this process for the other ear, if necessary.

You have to be always careful while dealing with your ears to avoid causing problems to your eardrum. Also care must be taken as some of the crusty wax may go deep into the ear instead of coming out.

White Crust in Ear Canal

Crusty ears causes

White crust in ear canal

Ear canal infection (otitis externa) is an inflammation or infection of the outer ear canal, and the passage leading from the external ear to the eardrum. The condition may develop when water, dirt or other debris gets into the ear canal. Since it is often associated with excess water in the ear canal, and frequently occurs in children and young adults who swim a great deal, the common name for this inflammation is “swimmer’s ear”.

Causes of otitis externa

  • It may be caused by excessive water exposure in the ear from swimming or even routine showering. When water pools in the ear canal, the skin becomes soggy and serves as a culture medium for bacteria. The moisture can cause the skin inside the ear canal to flake – a condition known as eczema. A break in the skin, which may result from scratching the persistent itch of the eczema, can allow bacteria or to invade the tissue of the ear canal and cause an infection.
  • Acute otitis externa is commonly caused by a bacterial infection caused by StreptococcusStaphylococcus, or Pseudomonastypes of bacteria.
  • Chronic otitis externa can be caused by a bacterial infection, but it is more likely to be caused by chronic dermatitis of the ear canal. People with chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or seborrheic dermatitis are more prone to outer ear infections.
  • Swimming in polluted water is a common cause of swimmer’s ear, especially if there is already inflammation or broken skin: the bacteria in the water find the moist, inflamed ear canal an ideal environment.
  • Hot and humid weather conditions promote the development of outer ear infections.
  • In most cases, more than one factor may be involved. For example, someone with eczema may subsequently develop black ear drainage. This would suggest an accompanying fungus.
  • Excessive and harsh cleaning of wax from the ears can lead to infection. Wax protects the ear canal from excess moisture and harbours beneficial bacteria. Removing this protective barrier – particularly with fingernails or other sharp objects that can scratch the skin – makes it easier for an infection to take hold.
  • Use of products such as bubble baths, shampoos, hair spray and hair dye can irritate the ear canal and lead to an outer ear infection.
  • Foreign objects are often placed in the ear by young children or enter the ear accidentally while an individual tries to clean or scratch the ear. Foreign objects such as hearing aids and ear buds can cause chronic irritation.
  • Insects may become trapped in the ear.
  • Chronic drainage from middle ear disease may infect the outer ear.
  • Tumours are a rare cause of outer ear infection.
  • Diabetes is often associated with a particularly severe form of otitis externa.

Crusty Ear Lobe Piercing

Ear piercing is the oldest form of body modification, with references dating back to the early history of mankind. Ear piercings also extend further than just the lobe. Today, we have industrials, rook, helix, inner, and outer conch, anti-tragus, orbital, and reverse lobe piercings.

After an ear piercing session, instead of healing of the wound, you may start developing crusty ears around the area of the pierce. This is mostly due to allergic reaction that may arise from the jewelry that was put in the hole after the process. For those with sensitive skin, you may just find yourself reacting to the trauma that occurred on your ear skin.

What to do to avoid crusty ear lobe piercing

  • Most piercers will recommend cleaning the jewellery and area around the jewellery with a mild soap while in the shower. Make sure to thoroughly rinse it. You do not want to leave any soap to irritate it.
  • You can, also, clean with saline. Soak a cotton ball, and hold it to the piercing for 10- 15 minutes, 2-3 times a day.
  • Try not to play with the jewellery unless you are cleaning it. The more you irritate it, the harder it will be to heal.
  • Do not over clean, as drying it out will, also, irritate it.
  • The average healing time for most ear piercings range from 6-10 weeks. Cartilage piercings take longer to heal.

How to Get Rid of Crusty Ears

Crusty ears treatment

How to get rid of crusty ears

The best treatment for dry skin inside ears will depend on the cause. In other words, what causes ears to itch is what needs to be addressed first in itching ears treatment. For example if your hearing aid is the one to blame for the itching in the ear, then having the mild checked and probably changed will solve the itching ear.

Dry scaly ears as a result of a skin condition will also cure once the specific skin condition is treated. It is advisable to see a dermatologist to prescribe the best treatment for ear eczema, ear psoriasis or dandruff in the ear.

It is important that you do not use cotton buds or q tips often on your crusty ears as you may strip them of natural lubrication. If wax build up is a real concern for you, it is safer to approach an ENT specialist who can carry out a professional clean up. He will also recommend how often you will need a clean-up.

Some people scratch their ears out of nervousness and anxiety. This may irritate the skin in the ear, or on the lobe and one may end up with some scabs if the scratching is frequent and vigorous. To avoid this, make a conscious effort to not scratch your ears, or poke objects into them.

Home remedies to cure dry skin inside ear

The following remedies will help to cure dry crusty ears.

Garlic and Olive Oil

By know the whole world knows garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic. In this remedy, we are relying on its antibacterial properties to combat dry skin in ears. Crush some garlic cloves and mix in a tablespoon of olive oil. Heat this mixture gently till you see it begin to bubble then leave to cool.

Use this remedy as natural ear drops for itchy ears by applying with a dropper inside the ear.

Olive Oil

In cases where the ear is not producing enough wax, you can use olive oil to act as the natural lubricant and ease the dryness. Apply two drops of pure olive oil using a dropper every time you feel the dryness.

More references

  1. Crusty or flaky ears: http://medmum.com/crusty-ears/
  2. Dry skin in ears causes: http://skin.knowfacts.org/dry-skin/dry-skin-ears-causes-treatment-remedies-get-rid-dry-itchy-flaky-crusty-skin-inside-ear-canal/
  3. What result to crusty ears: http://healthylifemed.com/crusty-ears/
  4. Ear problems: http://www.seattlechildrens.org/medical-conditions/symptom-index/ear-discharge/
  5. Dry skin on ear areas: http://www.livestrong.com/article/292273-how-to-get-rid-of-flaky-earwax/
  6. Ear canal infection: http://www.health24.com/Medical/Diseases/Ear-canal-infection-20120721