We are no longer performing ear syringing/irrigation at Mid Sussex Health Care but can get patients who need this done referred to The Brow.
Ear wax is a build-up of dead cells, hair and foreign material such as dust and cerumen. Cerumen is the natural wax produced by glands in the ear. It forms a protective covering of the skin lining the ear canal. Small amounts are made all the time.
The quantity of ear wax made varies from person to person. Some people form plugs of earwax which leads to a feeling of fullness and dulled hearing. It can be painful and cause a ‘ringing in the ear’ or even dizziness.
DO NOT try to clean the ear canal with a cotton bud etc. as all this does is push the earwax further into the ear canal. It could also cause an ear infection.
- Symptoms of earwax build-up include:
- hearing loss
- earache or a feeling that your ears are blocked
- ringing or buzzing in your ears (tinnitus)
- vertigo (feeling dizzy and sick)
- Causes of earwax build-up
A build-up of earwax can happen if:
- you have narrow or damaged ear canals
- you have lots of hair in your ear canals
- you have a skin condition affecting your scalp or around your ear
- you have inflammation of your ear canal (otitis externa or “swimmer’s ear”)
- Preventing earwax build-up
Eardrops can sometimes clear the ear wax without the need for ear irrigation. You can buy these from the pharmacy. Olive oil, almond oil (if no allergy to nuts) or sodium bicarbonate are most commonly used.
Warm the drops to room temperature before using them. Pour a few drops into the affected ear. Lie down with the affected ear uppermost when instilling the drops. Stay like this for 5-10 mins and let the drops soak into the ear wax. Do not put cotton wool in after instilling ear drops. Once the wax is softened it often breaks out and clears spontaneously. You may not even notice the wax coming out of your ear. Perform this procedure at least twice daily for 2 weeks.
If after 2 weeks of ear drops the feelings of dulled hearing, fullness, possibly pain and dizziness then the patient needs an appointment with the GP to check and refer for ear irrigation at The Brow if this is felt necessary.
To prevent repeated build-up of ear wax that requires regular ear irrigation, as this procedure in itself has risks, it is recommended that the use of regular ear drops such as olive oil once or twice per week.
Not everyone is suitable for ear irrigation so it is important that they are assessed by the GP prior to referral.
- A pharmacist can help with earwax build-up
Speak to a pharmacist about earwax build-up. They can give advice and suggest treatments.
They might recommend medicines to dissolve the earwax. The earwax should fall out on its own or dissolve after about a week.
Do not use drops if you have a hole in your eardrum (a perforated eardrum) without seeking advice.