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Ear wax self care
Ear Care and Irrigation
What is ear wax?
Ear wax is a normal build-up of dead cells, hair or foreign material such as dust and natural wax which forms a protective coating on the skin in the ear canal. The quantity of earwax produced varies greatly from person to person. Ears are normally self-cleaning – the movement of your jaw whilst eating and talking helps to move the wax along the canal where it will usually fall out naturally without you noticing.
A plug of earwax is not a serious problem, more a nuisance. You only need to remove earwax if it is causing symptoms such as dulled hearing or when fitting a hearing aid.
If you experience any of the following, you should seek advice from a nurse or doctor
- discharge or bleeding from the ear
- sudden deafness or buzzing
- foreign bodies in the ear
If you are not experiencing any of the above, you can manage the blockage yourself.
How to remove ear wax
Note: If you think you have ear wax, do not try to clean the ear canal with cotton wool buds. This can make things worse, as you will push some earwax deeper inside. It may also cause an ear infection.
Ear drops alone will clear a plug of earwax in most cases. Put 2 or 3 drops of ordinary olive oil down the ear 2 or 3 times a day for 2—3 weeks. This softens the wax so that it then runs out of its own accord without harming the ear. You can continue for any length of time, but 3 weeks is usually enough. Surprisingly, you will not necessarily see wax come out. It often seems to come out unnoticed.
If you are prone to repeated wax build up you can continue to use olive oil drops twice a week to prevent recurrence. If olive oil does not work you can buy sodium bicarbonate drops from pharmacies.
How to use ear drops
Warm the drops to room temperature before using them. Pour a few drops into the affected ear
Lie with the affected ear uppermost when putting in drops. Stay like this for 10 minutes to allow the drops to soak into the ear wax. Afterwards, wipe away any excess oil but do not plug your ear with cotton wool as this simply absorbs the oil.
Bulb syringing is a safe, alternative way to remove ear wax. Bulb syringes can be easily purchased from a pharmacy and allow you to clear your ears from wax in your own home. If your ears are painful or have fluid coming out of them, or if you have a hole in your ear drum (perforation) of have recently had surgery on your ear you should see a doctor or nurse and not use this method.
Instructions for bulb syringing:
Use olive oil drops twice a day for at least 14 day prior to bulb syringing. Alternatively use sodium bicarbonate ear drops purchased from your pharmacy (please read the manufactures leaflet).
- Wash your hands
- Use a bowl of cooled boiled water that is warm to the touch
- Prepare the syringe by squirting water in and out of it a few times
- Gently pull the outer ear “up and out” to help straighten out the canal, which will allow better access for the water
- Tilt your head so the ear to be treated is uppermost
- Place the tip of the syringe into the opening of the ear—DO NOT push the syringe further into the ear—and gently squirt one or more bulb syringes of water into your ear (this may be best done in the shower so that excess water does not run over the floor).
- Allow the water to remain in your ear for at least 60 seconds. Gently tilt your head in the opposite direction and wiggle your outer ear.
If after 2 weeks or more, you are still deaf from wax, you may need an appointment with a nurse to decide on further action.
Ear irrigation (ear syringing):
Ear irrigation is not a funded NHS service in general practice, though we can provide a limited number of appointments. Irrigation will only usually be considered if the above recommendations have proved to be unsuccessful. Ear wax needs to be softened as above for 14 days before attempting to syringe. Although the risks are low and our staff are specially trained to perform this procedure, there is still a small chance (thought to be around 1 in 1,000) of complications occurring – such as a perforated ear drum, middle ear infection, external canal infection or causing ringing in the ear (tinnitus).
If your ears are regularly becoming blocked with wax, after clearing the blockage we will usually suggest you use olive oil drops as above around once per week to keep the wax soft and encourage the natural process of wax expulsion.
Should it be deemed that irrigation is necessary and there are no appointments available in the surgery, you have the option of requesting a referral to the West Hampshire Community ENT Service
Alternatively, you may wish to consider an alternative to ear irrigation which is Micro Suction. This is a technique where wax is removed under a microscope using a small suction device (a bit like a tiny hoover).
Here is a selection of private clinics that provide this service:
Specsavers: Several Specsavers stores now offer earwax removal services by trained and accredited hearing care professionals. £35 per ear. No wax, no fee. To book an appointment contact your Lymington Specsavers Store 01590 647350. The team will give the advice needed, soften the wax ready for removal and then arrange your removal appointment. Also provide wax removal at home for the extra fee of £25
EAM Mobile Ear Care – ring 07450997322 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ear Sense – https://www.earsense.co.uk/ or call 07814 822631
Brockenhurst & Sway Ear Clinic – ring 01590 622272 for an appointment
The Private Ear Clinic, Lymington – ring 07514 417556 or send an email to: email@example.com
07:30 until 18:30
08:00 until 18:30
08:00 until 18:30
08:00 until 18:30
08:00 until 18:30
08:00 until 11:00
(2nd Saturday of each month ONLY, depending on statutory holidays)