I thought for years that I simply had sensitive ears. To me, having sensitive ears meant that most earrings, even the hypoallergenic earrings and nickel free earrings, gave me a painful reaction that ranged from itching to swelling and bleeding.
I thought that having sensitive ears was just something that I had to live with, and I didn't really think about what it really meant (from a medical or scientific point of view) to have "sensitive ears".
Since then I have learned much more about what that phrase actually means, and much more about the jewelry that I put into my body. Hopefully what I learned will be helpful to everyone else that is trying to figure out what is causing their sensitive ears.
First things first, what does is really mean to have sensitive ears? Most people define it by the symptoms: they experience a reaction when wearing earrings including itching, swelling, redness, and bleeding.
The reality, is that these symptoms are actually caused by a metal allergy. Metal allergies (aka contact dermatitis) are contact allergies, meaning a reaction only occurs when your body is in contact with the substance (like when you are wearing earrings). The symptoms of metal allergy include reddening of the skin, swelling, blistering, rash, pain.
Metal allergies do not occur immediately. They develop over time after extended contact with a reactive substance. For that reason, many people can wear earrings for years before they develop an allergy and start to get painful reactions.
So when you say you have sensitive ears, what you are really saying is that you have a metal allergy and your ears cannot tolerate the reactive metals in most earrings.
Like any allergy, the only way to avoid these reactions is to avoid the offending substances all together. But what if you still want to wear earrings? Not to worry, all hope is not lost. The key is to wear earrings that do not contain any reactive metals.
Titanium is one of the only metals that does not react with the human body. Look for earrings that are made with pure titanium (like these) and do not have any other metals that come in contact with your ear. Even a non-titanium back or a sliver of another metal can cause a painful reaction if it is in constant contact with your skin. You should also be careful to verify that the earrings are actually pure titanium and not a titanium alloy.
If you have any questions about sensitive ears, metal allergies, or the best earrings for sensitive ears, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org