What is ear wax?
Ear wax, also called cerumen, is a naturally occurring substance made by the body to protect the ears. Ear wax has both lubricating and antibacterial properties, so it helps to cleanse and moisturise the ear canal. Usually old ear wax is moved through the ear canal by the action of chewing and other jaw movements and eventually it reaches the outside of the ear and flakes off. Ear wax is produced in the outer part of the ear canal, not deep inside the ear.
What does it mean when ear wax becomes impacted?
Ear wax is impacted when it has built up in the ear canal, blocking it. Note that for most people, ear canals might never need cleaning—they are designed to clean themselves.
What are the symptoms of ear wax impaction?
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- Pain in the ear
- Difficulty hearing, which may continue to worsen
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- A feeling of itchiness in the ear
- Discharge from the ear
Who experiences excess wax build up?
It can happen to anyone. However, it is more likely to occur in:
- People who use hearing aids or ear plugs
- People who put cotton swabs or other items into their ears
- Older people where the cartilage in the ear canal has softened
How is ear wax impaction diagnosed?
Your hearing health care provider, Paul Darroch can examine your ears with a special instrument called an otoscope, to see if excess ear wax is present.
How is ear wax impaction treated?
Ear wax can be removed in several ways:
- Using olive oil to soften wax in the ear canal
- Irrigating the ear — this involves using a machine to rinse out the ear canal with water or saline, generally after the wax has been softened by oil.
- Removing the wax manually using special instruments — a cerumen spoon, forceps, or suction device.
Ear wax removal using microsuction is performed with the aid of a magnifying loupe and finely calibrated suction device. Paul Darroch recommends microsuction and offers the service at all of his clinics.
How can ear wax impaction be prevented?
Do not stick anything into your ears to clean them. Use cotton buds on the outside of the ear and never insert them into the ear canal. If you have a severe enough problem with ear wax that you need to have it removed by a health professional more than once a year, we can advise which method of prevention (if any) may work best for you.
We would advise that commercially available suction devices for home use are not effective for most people and are therefore not recommended.
Ear candles, which are advertised as a natural method to remove ear wax, are not only ineffective but can cause injury to the ear. Injuries can include burns to the external ear and ear canal, and perforation of the eardrum.
Free Ear Check
If you would like us to quickly examine your ears, there is no charge. If ear wax removal is required for blocked ears, micro suction is an affordable, gentle process. £45 one ear; £65 two ears.