Ear canal irritation - am I missing anything?

After many years of wearing HAs problem-free (first with acrylic canal earmolds, then with open domes) it seems that the vented domes on my Phonak Audeo Paradise HAs may be giving me a bad reaction in both ears.

The problems have been off-and-on since I got these HAs late least year, first in my right ear and now in my left. First itching, then some swelling, and lately apparent dermatitis / otitis externa. I have a wireless otoscope so I can see that certain parts of my ear canal are very angry indeed.

First of all, I am treating this with antibiotic / anti-inflammatory drops prescribed by my GP and I’ll be going back to see him after 7 days. And second, I’ve made an appointment with the audiologist (not for a little while, as I know my ears will be inflamed for the near future).

But in the meantime I was wondering if the forum’s collective experience could potentially help me identify other/additional aggravating factors (HA-specific or lifestyle-related) that I haven’t considered.

I suspect I will need to switch back to custom earmolds to see if it’s the Phonak dome silicone material to blame (or even partially implicated), which is a shame as I have otherwise been quite happy with the comfort and results of the domes.

I’m not 100% sure that the HAs are to blame, as there could be other factors involved like occasional use of wireless earbuds, frequently wearing over-the-ear headphones while working from home during COVID (as I still am), a reaction to an ingredient (lavender essential oil) in a soap I switched to that may have gotten into my ears, having had shaggy hair for months when haircuts weren’t available where I live due to the pandemic… in theory I suppose any of these things could play a role.

My very first HAs’ acrylic earmolds were quite comfortable, and I understand that titanium is now an option from Phonak as well (which could help with irritation?). So in the end this could be a good thing. But could I be causing this myself somehow? Are the Phonak domes made out of a material so different from the Oticon domes I was using before?

Are the new domes a different color than the other domes you were wearing? I had clear domes for 6 years with my K6’s (resound) . No problems at all. When I upgrades to the Resound Preza, the domes were now black. Within 3 weeks my ear canals and ear drums were blood red. Went to the ENT and come too find out, I was allergic to those domes. Given that they were both Resound and silicone, it had to be the black dye. I ended up getting the acrylic custom molds. I returned the Prezas and now have the Jabra’s with custom clear silicon molds that have been dipped in something to make it hypoallergenic. Absolutely no problems!

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Yes, the Phonak domes I have now are a smoky grey colour versus the clear ones on my old Oticons. From the little bit of research I’ve done I understand that in addition to colourants there are numerous different types and grades of silicone even among those considered hypoallergenic for medical use…

I suppose the smoky colour was chosen to avoid the unappealing discolouration that can set in with clear domes after a certain amount of use? But in my case it may be that this is a problem.

Oddly enough, I’m wildly allergic to the acrylic custom mold material in clear or pink-tinted. I can do the flesh colored hard plastic molds, but have been wearing smoke gray domes on my Phonak Marvels for years with no trouble. My audi told me more of his patients are sensiitive to the CLEAR silicone domes. I UTTERLY empathize with your ear canal sensitivity having gone through two bouts of really bad reaction myself in the past 15 yrs.

Hope it resolves with whatever it takes. Also: get a UV sanitizer to put the aids in every night. If you live in a humid climate, there can be a lot more bacteria/fungal issues with sweating. That’s also true for very active HA wearers. We just got to be more clean and careful. GOOD LUCK and keep us posted.

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For sure, I intend to pick up one of Phonak’s new UV & drying chargers soon.

A band of red irritation started to show up under my wedding band, which is (supposed to be?) titanium, so I’m now thinking there might be more going on than just my ears. Now it’s no hearing aids and no ring for a little while… stainless steel watch and silicone fitness band aren’t giving me problems yet, though.

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I experienced the same infections as you stated. I wear the P90R’s , but working with my Audi and ENT we did three things to stop my canal infections.
First, we switched to Widex Easywear double domes in small size, second each night I clean my domes with Audio Wipes(Amazon) in canisters or individual towelettes and third I apply Comfort Ear on the domes each morning before I slide them into my canals. It only takes a very small drop on my finger and then carefully applying the Comfort Ear to the double dome. Sounds like a lot of work, but actually it only takes a few seconds.
Works for me. Good luck

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Even just using a little bit of olive oil, which I tried for one day before I was able to get the drops from my Dr, was a huge relief. It looks like many of the specialty ear drops are mixtures of various oils, so I look forward to finding an approach that works going forward.

See a dermatologist. Have patch tests done. Is it multi-factorial? You got to find out cuz it is just too inconvenient to have to remove aids and rings dealing with such sensitive skin.

Sensitive skin has been my life-long albatross! And I’d be in a total panic if I had to take my aids out till the skin healed (as I’ve done twice before due to otitis). I’m like Helen Keller, only I can SEE. And that’s not enough when one has to get outside with traffic, people, and all that! Seeing is only half the equation.

Dermatology referral is likely in the cards after I see my GP next week, yes. I’m not aware of any previous skin sensitivities but hey, why shouldn’t my
body throw me another curveball?

There can be numerous causes. Allergy, domes don’t fit properly etc. There a product called miracell that might help. But I would first go see the audiologist so he can see precisely where the actual irritation is occurring

I used Miracell but seem to be sensitive to that, too! It’s got an oily texture, so you’d think it would be soothing … tell that to my ear canal. :wink:

Your ears being inflamed is exactly what you want your audiologist to see. Have you been to see him yet?

I agree with those who recommend seeing your audiologist while your ear canals are red.

I’ve tons of allergies and have had itching problems since I got my first aids 25 years ago. Interestingly, the right ear is worse. I have a cream from my gp for when it’s bad. Cleaning them well makes a big difference.

You’re right, Phonak has titanium ear molds. My new Phonak Paradise has a titanium custom mold for the left ear and I have very little itching. Unfortunately I was told titanium is not available for the CROS in my itchier right ear. But the plastic custom mold is coated with something. It’s not perfect, but will do.

Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the clinic until last Thursday, by which time the antibiotic/steroid ear drops had done a decent job of calming things down. But some issues were still evident. Strangely, I’m also getting itching on my palms and what my GP thinks is contact dermatitis under my wedding band… which is (supposed to be?) medical implant grade titanium (Grade 23 according to the jeweller)! So, now I’m going to get tested to see if I actually am allergic to titanium (which is rare). That will be good to know in case I have issues with my custom ear molds… what a pain it would be to get titanium earmolds made and find that I react to those, too. Good times.

All the costco hearing aids irritated my ears. I even had custom molds and still irritating. Cheap materials.

Once i switched to phonak, no more allergies and no irritation with custom molds.

In my experience the most common cause for allergic skin issues are changes in laundry detergent followed by changes in soap and shampoo. I suggest you keep it simple. Eliminate any new soap, shampoo, or detergent and see if the problem dissipates. Don’t add any new home remedies, creams, etc as those may make the situation worse. Complete the treatment prescribed by your GP. The fact that you changed soap recently is a clue, as is the fact that you are getting irritation under your ring where soap can accumulate. It is not likely that you are having two separate allergies-ears and finger. It is likely the same irritant.

I had a similar problem with my gray Phonak domes, and started to clean them every night before going to bed with generic alcohol prep wipes purchased on Ebay.

Problem solved.

The domes that came with my Costco KS10.0T aids are Phonak domes.