Ear Micro-suction is a safe and effective treatment for removing earwax, debris or foreign bodies that are blocking your ear canal causing hearing loss or discomfort. Hearing loss can build up gradually over many years, making it harder to detect hearing loss. It’s only after the procedure that you can fully appreciate the benefits.
What is Earwax?
When you think of earwax, or to give it it’s medical term cerumen (pronounced seh-ROO-men), most people think of the yellow, sometimes dry, sometimes sticky stuff that comes out of your ear but not much beyond that. However, earwax is critical to the health of our ears. It protects our ear canal, provides moisture for our skin, helps keep the ear canal clean and can also provide protection against bacteria, foreign bodies, water and insects entering into our ear. Our bodies are made to dispose of old earwax naturally without interference; once produced, the earwax makes its way to the opening of the ear canal and falls out. However, sometimes the process is impaired because:
Your body just makes extra earwax
You have narrow or hairy ear canals
Your age – earwax gets harder and more difficult to fall out
You use earphones, hearing aids or cotton buds etc. which have helped push the earwax back into the ear
How do I know if my ear is blocked with earwax?
If you have earwax blocking your ear canal, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Difficulty hearing in the affected area
High pitched noises coming from inside the ear (tinnitus)
Feeling of Fullness
Removing the earwax would normally help to relieve the symptoms instantly. However, if they still persist you should see your GP as there may be another underlying cause. You can find your local GP here.
There are various methods for earwax removal, one of which is ear micro-suction.
The Procedure (Ear Wax Removals)
Our Audiologists use a specialist microscope to enable them to see clearly into your ear canal. A small suction tube is then manoeuvred gently through the ear canal to remove the earwax using suction, vacuuming ear wax out of the ear in the same way your vacuum at home would work.
Who can receive micro-suction treatment?
Our Audiologists can remove earwax safely in most cases, however, if you have previously had an operation on your ear or experienced perforation, we may advise you to seek advice from your GP or ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) consultant for alternative removing of ear wax treatments.
Does ear micro-suction treatment hurt?
Ear micro-suction is not a painful procedure; however, the ear canal is very delicate and sensitive and it is important to sit still when asked to do so. The procedure can be stopped at any point if you feel you need a break.
Should I use olive oil drops prior to treatment?
Olive oil drops can help soften the earwax making it easier for earwax removal. However, in most cases the earwax can be removed without prior usage of olive oil drops.
What happens if you can’t remove the earwax?
Our Audiologists endeavour to remove the earwax in one appointment, however, sometimes we may not be able to if it’s too hard to reach, too close to the eardrum or attached to the skin. If we feel that this is the case, we may advise you to arrange a follow up appointment and use olive oil drops in the interim. The drops should soften the earwax making it easier to remove in the follow up appointment.
Are there any side effects to the procedure?
Ear micro-suction is a very safe and effective method to remove earwax but there may be some temporary changes to your ears immediately after the procedure such as:
- Your ears feeling “cold” – this is due to the ‘caloric’ effect of the procedure which can give a cooling sensation in the ear.
- Greater sound sensitivity
- Dizziness and/or disorientation
- Your ear throbbing or feeling sore
Many of these side effects do pass within 24 hours as it is just your body adjusting to the earwax not being there, especially if it has been building up for a long period of time.
What are the alternatives methods for ear wax removal and can I remove ear wax at home?
The main alternative to ear micro-suction is ear irrigation, or more commonly known as ear “syringing”. This involves using a tool to push a pressurised flow of water down the ear canal which should then dislodge the wax. However, although this may remove the wax – it can be a more painful treatment than ear micro-suction and could even damage the ear drum.
As explained above, another possible at home remedy can be ear drops or olive oil. Though you can buy many types of ear drops over the counter, the active ingredients tend to be sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium chloride (salt) or hydrogen peroxide (a mild antiseptic), which can be effective but also irritating to people with sensitive skin. Alternatively, you can also use olive oil and almond oil which is kinder to the skin and can help soften or loosen the ear wax so it can then work its way out naturally and this can also be done to help prepare your ears if you decide to use ear micro-suction.
To use ear drops or olive oil, simply turn so the ear you would like to treat is facing upwards, ideally by lying down or placing your head on a surface, then use a dropper to insert the solution or olive oil. Leave for several minutes so gravity can pull the solution down the ear canal before turning the head so that the solution or olive can fall out with whatever ear wax it has managed to dislodge. It is important to note that olive oil or almond oil will need to be used over several days in order to have the most benefits.
However, it is not a good idea to use Hopi ear candles or cotton buds to try to remove earwax. Hopi ear candles are beeswax candlesticks in the ear with the hope it will remove wax and draw other impurities out. Studies have shown this method is largely ineffective at removing earwax, as well as potentially causing burns to the skin and face and potentially damaging the ear drum.
When it comes to cotton buds – not many people realise it but, on the packaging, there is often a safety label which says “never insert into the inner ear/ear canal”. This is because cotton buds actually push ear wax back into the ear canal and into parts of the ear that can’t clean themselves. It can also cause skin irritation and if the bud is inserted too far into the ear, it can perforate the ear drum, causing pain, bleeding and temporary hearing loss and the bud can even become stuck within the ear canal.
Can I prevent ear wax build up?
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent ear wax build up, your body naturally produces it over time and it is something we wouldn’t want any other way. It protects your ears from bacteria and viruses, water and anything getting into our ears such as insects. It also helps to moisturise the skin inside the ear and our bodies are designed to get rid of old wax naturally by pushing it up the ear canal where it dries and then falls out.
The best way you can assist this natural process of getting rid of old wax is using something like ear drops or olive oil to soften the wax which will help it to fall out of the ear more easily.