Dermatitis of the Ear Canal
(Chronic External Otitis)
There are two types of dermatitis of the ear canal:
Contact dermatitis of the ear canal is an allergic reaction to triggers such as nickel-containing earrings and numerous beauty products (for example, hairsprays, lotions, and hair dye).
The skin irritation and cracking caused by dermatitis may allow a bacterial or fungal ear canal infection (acute external otitis) to develop.
To treat contact dermatitis, people should eliminate allergic triggers, especially earrings containing nickel, hairsprays, and possibly even hearing aid molds. Trial and error may be needed to identify the allergic trigger. Doctors give people a cream containing a corticosteroid such as hydrocortisone or betamethasone to decrease swelling and itching. People should avoid putting cotton swabs, water, and other possibly irritating substances in the ear. For more severely inflamed ears, corticosteroids taken by mouth (such as prednisone) may be prescribed.
To treat aural eczematoid dermatitis, doctors give people drops of a diluted aluminum acetate solution (Burow solution) to put in the ear as often as is required for comfort. Itching and swelling can be reduced with a cream containing a corticosteroid (such as betamethasone). Again, avoidance of all irritants to the ear canal, such as cotton swabs and water, is an important part of the treatment of this condition.