Ear wax is a normal body secretion; it provides protection against infection and dust particles. The ear is self cleaning and the wax normally works its way out naturally. Never use cotton buds to clean inside your ears as they irritate the delicate skin inside the ear canal, they will also push the wax back into the ear and compact it.
Ear irrigation is not risk free; therefore it is only carried out if the ear is completely blocked with ear wax. Partial blockage of the ear canal only requires irrigation if you wear a hearing aid or need a special examination.
Ear irrigation can cause injury to the ears, ranging from minor infection, acute and chronic tinnitus (ringing in the ears), to perforation of the ear drum and deafness.
If you have ever have surgery to your ears or have had a perforated ear drum, you must tell us before the procedure is carried out.
To minimise the risk of injury, the wax should be softened with olive oil drops 1-2 times daily for 3-4 days prior to the consultation for wax removal.
It can be uncomfortable to have your ears irrigated but it should not be painful. If you experience any pain or dizziness during the procedure, tell the nurse immediately.
It is important that the water is at a comfortable temperature, you must say if it feels to warm or too cold.
Irrigating the ears takes away the protective layer of wax so it is important that you keep them dry for a few days as so after the procedure.
If you have continuing problems with ear wax, it may be helpful to use a few drops of olive oil once a week to keep the wax soft and aid the natural movement of skin cells and wax.
Installation of olive oil ear drops
- Lie down on your side with the affected ear uppermost
- Pull the pinna (outer ear) backwards and upwards. Drop 2 or 3 drops of oil, at room temperature, into the ear canal and massage the tragus just in front of the ear. Remain lying down for 5 minutes and then wipe away any excess oil. DO NOT leave cotton wool at the entrance to the ear
- Repeat the procedure with the opposite ear if necessary