Its Tinnitus Awareness WeekFebruary 1, 2019
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FAQ’S ON EAR WAX REMOVAL
Ear wax, what is it?
Ear wax is the most common cause of both tinnitus and hearing loss.
Earwax is supposed to be there and is not unhealthy or dirty it is in fact a cleaning mechanism for your ear and is produced by little glands deep inside the ear canal. In theory when these glands produce wax little hairs in the outer ear should push the wax along the ear canal and it should pop out the entrance to your ear. Earwax or to use its correct term cerumen also lubricates the ear canal which helps keep the ear free from dust and all types of bacteria.
All ear wax removal treatments are safe to an extent, but some are safer than others and none are safe in the hands of the poorly trained so here is a checklist for you to go through.
Experience – how long have you been doing this? How many patients have you seen?
Environment – does this place look like it had wax removal in mind? Is it clean? Is this a place that specialises in ear health?
Explanation – Is it thorough does it put you at ease? Are you fully aware of the whole procedure?
Inspection – Were my ears inspected and was it made clear how the anatomy and physiology of wax removal would affect me individually?
By far the safest form of ear wax removal mostly because unlike syringing or irrigation when we carry out wax removal by micro suction we have full visibility of the procedure. Another benefit of microsuction wax removal is it can be carried out almost immediately with no requirement to put oil in for a week beforehand.
This results in a far more convenient way to have ear wax removed especially if you have to go on holiday within the week! Microsuction ear wax removal is also safe for people who have had middle ear problems especially perforated ear drums and problems with vertigo.
If for some reason we are unable to offer you a microsuction ear wax removal we will offer wax removal by irrigation. Unlike syringing which is a forced entry of lukewarm water into the ear which can’t be regulated for pressure and in some instances cause damage to the ear drum or cause extreme vertigo irrigation is a controlled stream of water that gently flows around the ear canal until the wax is removed.
Where possible we will always try an offer you microsuction as we feel this is by far the safest form of wax removal.
Is all ear wax the same?
No, far from it. Some ear wax is very dry while some earwax can be wet and sticky. Some earwax can be flaky and stuck to the skin and others can fall into little sticky peace’s as you remove it from the ear. If we carry out 12 microsuction ear wax removals in a day you can guarantee that everyone will offer a different challenge. Not only that everyone’s ear canal will be different shapes.
Even carrying out ear wax removal on the same person across both their ears can be a totally different challenge. Your ears are asymmetrical, and your ear wax can have a totally different density and mass. So, one ear could take 10 mins to clean and the other could take 20 minutes.
If i wake up and my ears blocked can you see me right away?
The good news is absolutely yes. Ear wax removal by microsuction can be diagnosed and treated the same day.
Sometimes (very rarely) removal of ear wax on the same day is not possible and the number one reason for this is always impacted wax due to use of cotton buds. It’s not always the case that cotton bud use will mean we can’t do it but on the rare occasion we can’t remove earwax its always cotton buds fault! Don’t do it!
like my grandmother always said, nothing smaller than your elbow should go down that hole in your ear!
We absolutely do not recommend the use of cotton buds for the use of ear wax management. Why?
Ear wax is trying to migrate out your ear in a natural order. If you put a thick cotton bud down your ear canal which may only be a centimetre high all you will do is push the wax further in and impact it. You also run the very real risk of rupturing your ear drum. Your ear drum is 0.1 mm thick and is no match for a cotton bud. Don’t do it!
I keep having to get my ear wax cleaned out why is that?
Some people do indeed produce more ear wax than others. We have some customers who need ear wax cleaning out of their ears every 3 months and some who need it done annually. We talk to customers in their 80’s who are having ear wax cleaned out for the first time. So why the difference?
- Some people just produce lots of ear wax.
- Wearing things in your ears so ear wax cant get out such as hearing aids, noise protection, ear phones.
- If you have lots of hair in your ears then the earwax can get stuck and tangled in the hair.
- Narrow ear canals or ear canals that have a very sharp bend in it known as an s bend.
- If you keep putting your finger in your ear and wiggling it to scratch it this can push the wax back in.
- Have we said cotton buds? Cotton buds there! (don’t do it)
- Dry skin conditions.
- Working environments that have lots of dust or require headsets.
Why does my DRs surgery tell me its 2 weeks until they can remove my earwax?
The vast majority of GP surgeries still use the ear wax syringing technique. The main drawback of ear wax removal by syringing the ears is that the ear wax has to be super soft for it to be a relatively safe practice. If the ear wax is hard and the force of water is directed in the wrong way it may push the impacted ear wax towards the ear drum and in some cases blow right through your ear drum which in worst case scenarios cause permanent hearing loss & or tinnitus.
Therefore, to remove the dangers of earwax removal by syringing the surgery will ask that you soften your earwax with oil which is generally Sodium bicarbonate in Lanarkshire.
Why does my Doctors surgery not offer ear wax removal using micro suction?
Good question. Ear wax removal by microsuction is a bit of a fine art. Although very safe and by far the safest form of ear wax removal it is more time consuming than ear syringing. Removing ear wax by ear syringe can take seconds whereas removing ear wax using microsuction can take up to 30 mins for both ears. Obviously time is very precious for Doctors surgery therefore 30 minutes to remove ear wax would be too great a time to manage.
Earwax removal by microsution also requires a safe environment with plenty of space and expensive specialist equipment. Not all GP surgeries will have this space to carry out the procedure safely.
Is ear wax removal by microsuction painful?
No ear wax removal by microsuction is not painful if done correctly and in the correct environment with the correct kit not forgetting to mention the skilled practitioner.
You as a patient have a role to play as well. Keep still and relax. Most people will comment it tickles as it excites the little hairs in your ears.
Ear wax removal by microsuction does not use a force or jet down the ear so there should be no risk of pushing earwax down the ear canal at a fast rate which is why syringing or in some cases irrigation can be dangerous.
What kind of oil will I use to soften my ear wax?
9 times out of 10 you don’t need to use oil for ear wax removal using microsuction but it does no harm to put some in before your appointment. Nothing more than a day or two of ear oil is sufficient. This will lubricate the earwax enough for the microsuction machine to grab hold of it. Common types of ear wax softening oil.
- Earol (our personal favourite as it uses natural olive oil with no nasty chemicals)
- Otex – uses hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals to mix with oxygen and break the chemicals up. Although in the main very safe there are some conditions the user should be aware of. Consult your pharmacist or click this link to find out more about otex and if its right for you. The claims that it busts wax completely out your ear are not entirely true in my opinion
- Sodium bicarbonate – as well as sodium bicarbonate there is also the active ingredients of glycerol (e422), purified water and dichlorobenzyl alcohol (preservative). Breaks up ear wax and softens it. Can cause irritation of the skin. Always consult your GP if sodium bicarbonate does irritate your ear canal.
My hearing has gotten worse using ear drops why?
One of the most common complaints we hear about ear wax and its problems. Very simply while using drops you are actually adding more content to the ear so by using ear drops you are expanding the ear wax in the ear canal which in turn can cause the feeling of a blocked ear.
Also if your ear wax becomes smooth and runny it may run down your ear onto your ear drum instead of running out your ear like you hoped it would!! Ear wax lying on the ear drum will restrict it movement which will cause sudden hearing loss.
Will Hopi candles or ear candles work?
We can get into full scale arguments with this one. People do really like to believe in holistic and mystic medicines. I know I’m one of them!! And while so much medicine and mindfulness from the east is good for us Hopi candles is not one of them!
But they go all brown at the end I hear you say!! Yes, they do but that’s beeswax changing colour with the burning of the candle. One of the reasons we invested in a video otoscope for Lanarkshire Hearing Centre was to prove to people who were insistent that Hopi Ear Candles worked that in fact they did not. We would do a video of before and after Hopi candling or ear wax candling & show the patient first-hand the results from their Hopi ear candle experience.
A nice feeling it may be but removing impacted ear wax is not one of its strengths.
Why is it best to see a hearing care professional for my ear wax removal?
Quite simply it’s our domain. We make hearing aid moulds day in and day out. To make an invisible hearing aid or an invisible in the canal hearing aid you need to go very deep inside the ear. This requires a very steady hand and some skill. Never forget at the end of the ear canal is your ear drum. Your ear drum is a precious instrument and is only 0.1 mm thick!! There is no room for error here.
Ear wax removal requires great skill patience and a steady hand. Also, as we mentioned before the environment has to be right. Always ensure that thought has went into the environment that will be used to remove that unwanted ear wax.
What makes microsuction safer than syringing or irrigation?
As touched on before ear wax removal by microsuction involves pulling ear wax from the ear. There is no force of water being jettisoned down the ear canal.
The main dangers with ear irrigation and ear syringing is the water forcing the wax down your ear drum at speed and rupturing your ear drum. The ear drum is only 0.1 mm thick. Its so precious and great care should be taken with it.
Other real dangers with ear syringing and ear wax irrigation is incorrect water temperature. If the water is to cold, it can create sever dizziness and nausea.
If you have a perforated ear drum which is masked by the ear wax then imagine what feeling you will get when water is sent rushing down your ear canal at speed! It won’t be good that’s for sure. With ear wax removal using microsuction the risk is removed because no force is sent down the ear canal.
Ear syringing and ear irrigation can also in some instances cause otitis externa or more commonly known as an ear infection.
You’re ears are too precious & ear wax removal in the wrong hands can be dangerous. Make sure you understand whats involved in ear wax removal and choose only the best hearing care specialist to do it.
Steven Ross (MSHAA, RHAD)
58 Cadzow Street,