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FAQ – Ear Wax Problem

Read more about earwax problem

Some people are troubled by repeated build-up of earwax and require ear irrigation every so often. In this situation, to prevent earwax building up and forming a plug, some doctors recommend using ear drops regularly. For example, olive oil ear drops.

However, there is no clear research evidence to guide on this issue. For example, it is not clear how often the drops should be used. Different doctors advise different things – from daily, to once a fortnight. It is also not clear if regular use of ear drops does actually prevent earwax from building up. However, if you are troubled by regular plugs of earwax, you may wish to try using ear drops on a regular basis to see if this prevents the problem.

Treatments for excessive ear wax

The simplest treatment is to use some drops of a wax solvent in your ear for a few days. Ear wax solvents are available from your Pharmacist and often are all that is needed to remove the wax. If use of an ear wax solvent should fail, your GP may decide to syringe the ear.

Syringing the ear is carried out by a GP or Practice Nurse. It is a simple, painless procedure. You’ll be asked to sit with a bowl under your ear and a towel over your shoulder while a jet of warm water is forced into the ear canal to bring the impacted wax out.

Before having your ears syringed, you should discuss any previous ear problems (like surgery or even the use of ear wax solvents) with your GP or Nurse. And, if you experience any pain during the syringing, tell the GP or Nurse immediately.

Ear drops

Ear drops alone will often clear a plug of earwax. patients can buy drops from pharmacies. For example, olive oil ear drops are commonly advised for this purpose. The ear drops should be warmed to room temperature before using them. (the patient should Let the bottle stand in the room for about half an hour.)
patient has to Pour a few drops into the affected ear and Lie with the affected ear uppermost when putting in drops. Patient should Stay like this for 2-3 minutes to allow the drops to soak into the earwax. The earwax is softened, and it often breaks up if they put drops in 2-3 times a day for 3-7 days. Flakes or crusts of earwax often fall out bit by bit.

Ear Irrigation (which usually called ear syringing)

This may be needed if ear drops do not work. Irrigating the ear with water will usually clear plugs of earwax. But, it often only works if the plug of earwax has been softened. Therefore, use ear drops (such as olive oil ear drops) to soften wax 2-3 times a day for 3-5 days prior to irrigation. Ear irrigation is usually painless. Lukewarm water is squirted into the ear canal. This is usually done by a machine that squirts water at the right pressure. This dislodges the softened plug which then falls out with the water.

Note: the old-fashioned big ear syringes have largely been replaced by modern irrigation machines. This is because the machines can deliver the squirt of water at the correct pressure. There is no risk of there being too much pressure applied which may harm ( a problem with the old-fashioned syringes).

Some people feel dizzy after ear irrigation, but this quickly settles. Some people develop an inflammation in the ear canal following ear irrigation. This causes itch and discomfort, but can be treated with ear drops. Rarely, ear irrigation can cause damage to the ear or eardrum.

Therefore, see a doctor or nurse after ear irrigation if you develop any ear pain, troublesome itch in the ear, discharge from the ear, or swelling of the tissues around the ear canal (which may indicate infection).

Ear irrigation may not be advised if you have certain ear problems. In particular, if you:

  • Have had complications following this procedure in the past.
  • Have had ear surgery in the past (apart from grommets that have come out at least 18 months previously and you have been discharged from the hospital ear department).
  • Have a cleft palate (even if it has been repaired).
  • Have an ear infection or have had an ear infection in the previous six weeks.
  • Have recurring infections of the ear canal (recurring otitis externa).
  • Have, or have had, a perforated ear drum.

If ear irrigation does not work, or is not advised, you may be referred to an ear specialist for removal of troublesome earwax.

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