Ear Syringing/Ear Care
A plug of earwax is not a serious problem, more a nuisance and ear drops alone will in most cases clear a plug of earwax. Frequent ear syringing is not good practice and an appointment for ear syringing should not be viewed as the solution to a blocked ear. If there is a build up of wax in your ear(s), please read the following self-help guide.
What is ear wax?
Ear wax is normal and is produced to form a protective coating over the skin in the ear canal. 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.
Why is my ear blocked with wax?
The amount of ear wax produced varies from person to person; some people produce excessive amounts which can lead to a blockage in the ear canal. You are more likely to develop a blockage of wax in the canal if you:
- use cotton ear buds to clean the ear as this pushes the wax deeper into the canal
- wear a hearing aid, ear plugs or use in-ear speakers for i-pods or similar - as these can all interfere with the natural process of wax expulsion
- have abnormally narrow ear canals
- have a particularly hairy ear canal
- are elderly – because the ear wax you produce is drier and harder
- have a dry skin problem such as eczema or psoriasis
Advice to help you manage and prevent ear wax blockage
Ear wax only becomes a problem if it causes deafness, discomfort or if your Health professional requires a clear view or your ear drum.
If you experience any of the following, you should seek advice from your GP at The Malthouse Surgery:
- discharge or bleeding from the ear
- sudden complete deafness or buzzing
- foreign bodies in the ear
If you are not experiencing any of the above, you need to manage the blockage as following:
Olive Oil Drops –
The following needs to be done 2 or 3 times daily for 14 days.
- Lie on your side with the affected ear uppermost
- Pull the outer ear gently backwards and upwards to straighten the ear canal
- Put 2-3 drops of olive oil into the affected ear(s) and gently massage just in front of the ear
- Stay laying on your side to allow the wax to soak in for around 10 mins
- Afterwards, wipe away any excess oil but do not plug your ear with cotton wool as this simply absorbs the oil
Your hearing problem may initially worsen after first starting to use the olive oil drops; this is why we advise you to concentrate on treating one ear at a time if both ears are blocked with wax.
In most cases, after 14 days, the wax will have softened sufficiently to encourage the wax to come out without further intervention.
Ear Syringing – is only usually considered if the above recommendations have proved to be unsuccessful.
The Malthouse Surgery has to prioritise appointments around clinical need and we offer approximately 8 ear syringing appointments a week, which can get booked up well in advance.
If after trying the above method of clearing the ear, it is decided by a clinician that ear syringing is required, you will need to make an appointment and ensure ear wax is softened as above for at least one week before syringing will be attempted.
Although the risks are low and our nurses are specially trained to perform this procedure, there is still a small chance (thought to be around 1 in 1000) 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, further ear syringing is not the solution and 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.