Ear syringing

Why we no longer routinely syringe ears

Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) consultants have advised us on the best treatment for wax that is causing deafness; it is our intention at Burnham Medical Centre to follow their recommendation.

Syringing is now considered an outmoded method of removing wax which is not without associated hazards, such as the risk of perforating the ear drum, tinnitus, or dizziness.

Wax, or cerumen as it is sometimes called, is a normal secretion from the glands inside the ear canal.  We all produce wax in varying amounts, some people produce excessive amounts which can lead to blockage in the ear canal.

The wax works as a protective layer for the delicate skin inside the ear canal. It normally removes itself by shedding in small flakes or crusts.

A doctor or a nurse can look into the ear canal and confirm a plug of earwax has formed. A plug of earwax is not a serious problem, more a nuisance.

Note: do not try to clean the ear canal with cotton wool buds etc. This can make things worse as you push some earwax deeper inside and could cause an ear infection.

Why is my ear blocked with wax?

You are more likely to develop 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, or ear plugs or use in-ear speakers for i-pods or similar –as these can interfere with natural process of wax expulsion
  • Have abnormal narrow of the ear canals
  • Have particular hairy ear canals
  • Are elderly-because the 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 becomes a problem if it causes deafness, discomfort or if your Health professional requires a clear view of your ear drum.

If you experience pain, you should seek advice from the practice nurse:

What Drops Should You Use

There are a variety of drops available at your local chemist however; some may cause irritation on regular use. Olive oil (as used in the Kitchen) is as effective as any you can buy and does not generally cause any irritation or soreness.

For the oil to be administered in the correct place it should be applied via a special dropper which can be purchased from the chemist, otherwise the end of a teaspoon can be used

It is more effective if you can ask a partner/friend/carer to apply the drops to the affected ear, as it is really important the drops end up in the lower part of the ear canal and not on the ledge of the entrance to the ear.

This diagram shows the formation of the ear and ear canal:

Use oil at room temperature. Pour 2 or 3 drops into the affected ear. Lie with the affected ear uppermost when putting in the drops. Stay like this for 2-3 minutes to allow the drops to soak into the earwax.

Flakes or crusts of earwax often fall out bit by bit.

DO NOT APPLY COTTON WOOL as a plug after oiling as this will absorb the oil, making the process less effective.

Continue to put drops into the affected ear 2-3 times a day for up to 7 days and the ear wax should soften and disperse naturally.

Where to seek advice

Speak to your pharmacist first about the most suitable product for you and make sure you read the leaflet that comes with it.

Private Micro suction may be available at local private hospitals . If you are interested in further information, please contact the hospital of your choice.

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