Lots of our patient ask us how to clean the wax from their ears and the answer is you don’t! The production of wax (cerumen) is part of the ears self-cleaning mechanism. This sterile body fluid helps to lubricate the ears, trap dust and other particles and help protect the ear from infection. Unless you are producing too much will gradually be expelled as you move your jaw and it is rare to experience a wax blockage unprovoked.
Removing stubborn ear wax fast! What is the solution?
The best method for cleaning your ears is something that historically many of us thought was a simple case of reaching for a cotton bud (or ear bud as many call them) poking it in our ears and having a good wiggle around. But most people do not know that actually this is last thing you want to do in the case of an ear wax blockage.
Treating your blockage with ear drops. How long does it take for olive oil to work?
There are a few types of ear drops available over the counter. Your GP will most frequently recommend olive oil, hydrogen peroxide or sodium bicarbonate. Knowing which the best ear drops are to use and when to use them can be tricky and the outcome of using them may not always give the desired results. If you are suffering from impacted wax, the first point of call is often to contact your GP or Nurse Practitioner who may advise you to use ear drops, either alone or prior to professional ear cleaning. Many are advised to use them for a few days to 2 weeks, which is based on the actual recommendation for appropriate used alongside considering how well you will administer them and unfortunately how long the waiting time is for this service in your area.
Ear drops although readily available may be a quick fix to clearing your ear wax fast but in the long-term may not be a full solution to your wax problem. As the drops are absorbed into the wax it expands, and annoyingly this can lead to further discomfort or hearing loss being cause in the meantime, frustrating when all you wanted was relief! In most cases if you have suffered the symptoms of a complete blockage, you are unlikely to clear the ears completely with use of ear drops alone or significantly enough that the ears will be completely clear. Given enough time, the wax will rebuild and lead to a blockage returning sometime in the future.
If you do decide to have ear wax removal by microsuction, where it is preferred that the ear wax be semi-solid, weeks’ worth of treatment with ear drops can actually make the procedure more difficult. That’s not to say that using ear drops is a total right-off. In cases where you have impacted ear wax, using ear drops may help to soften the wax to help with removal, especially if you are going to have ear syringing where the wax needs to be as soft as possible to be successful. Do not be fooled though, you may clear enough (a small gap for the air and sound to pass to the eardrum) for your symptoms to subside, but often this alleviation of symptoms is short-lived until enough wax builds or the wax moves within the ear canal and the ear canal becomes blocked again.
At-home treatments – please don’t!
Unfortunately, none of us have the ability to look inside our ears and therefore are left in the dark about exactly what is going on in there. Poking with cotton buds, corkscrews, hair pins or other devices often leads to the delicate skin on the inside of the ear canal being damaged and, in some cases, may perforate the eardrum and cause you a lot of pain. Even without the presence of pain the skin inside the ear can be damaged and with no way of checking you can worsen over time. Microsuction following someone having put something into their ear often shows skin damage, inflammation and in some cases the cotton wool from the end of the cotton bud. Naturally, this should be treated as an emergency and will call for a trip to the A&E department for its removal or your local microsuction specialist at least.
HOPI ear candles, unsuccessful and dangerous!
HOPI ear candles have been around for some time. Whether they be used at home or by a qualified ear candling professional, this type of treatment is not advised by medical professionals. Again, you are unable to see what you are doing which opens you up again to undetected damage within the ear canal but also they are often unsuccessful. As we advise our patients, if you burn hot wax into the ear you are more than likely to see wax. Whether or not it is yours is a different story. Coupled with the risk of perforation from the pressure vacuum within the ear (which is how the method is supposed to work) and that of burning the skin of the ear, head or hands, there is definite increased risk potential with this method.
The best ear wax removal treatment is by a qualified hearing professional.
Microsuction and ear irrigation (syringing) are your treatment options for a wax build-up. Microsuction uses a gentle vacuum suction, is the safest method and therefore is preferential pver ear syringing which uses water to flush the ear canal.
Microsuction by a hearing specialist
With this procedure your hearing professional uses a microscope to view within the ear canal. The skin of the eardrum and ear canal are left untouched and the wax is gently sucked into a machine. It is pain-free and quick, usually lasting 10-20 minutes and many patients report it to be their preferred method for comfort.
Irrigation (syringing) by a hearing specialist
Use of water with this method does come with a slightly higher risks, however it is widely used and is still the most commonly used method within the NHS. It involves gentle washing of the wax into a bowl which is held underneath the ear and takes about the same length of time as microsuction.
Top signs you might have a serious wax build up:
- Pressure/blocked sensation within the ears
- Excessively itchy ears
- You are experiencing partial hearing loss, fluctuating or worsening over time
- Tinnitus (ringing in your ears)
- Ear pain
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, this could be due to a build-up of ear wax, which will need to be removed. Here at Integrate Hearing our Clinical Audiologist can perform both Microscution and Irrigation and we will be able to advise you on which method will be most suitable for you, fully explaining the pros/cons of both methods where needed.
Integrate Hearing offer a range of hearing services at our clinics in Stockport, Runcorn and Wrexham and also for domiciliary at-home visits in the surrounding areas. Our services and products include hearing tests, hearing aids, ear wax removal, custom hearing protection and tinnitus management.