What is earwax?
The skin of the outer part of the canal (the tube running from the outer ear to the middle ear ending at the ear drum) has special glands that produce earwax. A Doctor, Nurse or a Health Care Assistant can look into the ear canal and confirm if a plug of wax has formed. A plug of wax is not a serious problem (more a nuisance) and only needs to be removed if it is causing symptoms such as dulled hearing, itching, discomfort or problems with hearing aid use.
What are the possible symptoms of wax build up?
- Partial hearing loss
- Tinnitus (noises in the ear)
- Fullness in the ear or a sensation the ear is blocked
- Problems with hearing aid use (i.e. whistling from a hearing aid when it is in place in the ear)
Please note: these symptoms are not always an indication of wax build-up and may be caused by other things. If in doubt, please consult your doctor.
Removal of wax
Wax can be removed either by ear drops which are designed to soften the wax, ear irrigation or suction clearance. If there is a history of ear operations or perforations (holes in the ear drum) suction clearance is the only option for removing the wax.
What you can do is help soften the wax?
If you have been advised that you have a wax problem and your ears are healthy you can start the treatment yourself. We recommend olive oil, which is a natural substance that helps to soften the wax and reduce discomfort during the wax removal procedure. We advise 1-2 drops every morning and afternoon one week prior to wax removal. You can obtain olive oil drops and a dropper from most chemists. The following points offer tips on how to insert olive oil into the ear canal:
- Store the bottle in the warmest room of the house for 20-30 minutes prior to insertion
- Holding the prepared bottle, lie on a bed with the affected ear towards ceiling
- Place filled dropper over the entrance of your ear canal and squeeze until 1-2 drops enter the ear canal
- Maintain your position on bed for 5 minutes
- Do not insert cotton wool into entrance of ear canal, as this will absorb the drops
Never use cotton buds to try and remove wax
The procedure is carried out by an Health Care Assistant, Nurse or Doctor using a small suction probe, which is gently placed into the ear to remove the wax. Following removal via this method we advise patients to keep the ear as dry as possible for a minimum of 4 to 5 days following removal.
Uncommon risks which can occur during micro suction:
- Failed removal of wax
- Mild dizziness or nausea
- Damage to external ear canal
- Temporary increased tinnitus (noises in ears)
- Perforated ear drum (hole in ear drum).
We will discuss these risks with you in full before any procedure is carried out.