Earwax: What to do about it
No matter how tempting it is, please don’t push anything inside your ear. For every small blob of wax you remove, you risk packing much more wax deeper inside your ear and you can cause damage to your ear canal or eardrum too.
So, what do I do instead? The simplest and most effective treatmen is to use olive oil as an ear drop. You can buy drops from a pharmacy, but they don’t work any better than olive oil from your kitchen cupboard. Do not heat it you risk burning your ear canal
So what about ear candles that I’ve heard about? There is no evidence of benefit.
How long do I need to use the olive oil for?
Many people only need the olive oil if used long enough and more importantly, syringing is less risky if the wax is really soft.
We will not syringe ears unless you’ve used olive oil as an eardrop, twice daily, for a minimum of two weeks.
But I’ve used olive oil, and my hearing’s getting worse! This is really common, and not a cause for concern as long as it resolves within a couple of weeks. When wax softens with olive oil, it often moulds to the shape of your ear, so your hearing can get worse before it gets better. If both ears are affected, many people choose to treat one ear with olive oil at a time, so that they don’t lose hearing in both sides simultaneously.
When should I see my GP? If you’ve used olive oil daily for at least 2 weeks and your hearing isn’t improving. If you notice Blood or pus from the ear canal. If you are dizzy with your ear symptoms.
They may then suggest ear syringing.
Syringing does carry a risk of eardrum perforation. We use low pressure syringing but even so this carries a risk of damage to the drum, most injuries will heal but some perforations can be permanent.
Can I use olive oil for longer than two weeks to avoid having my ear syringed? Absolutely, but if your symptoms are not improving as expected then you should see your GP to ensure that it is simple ear wax causing your symptoms.
Are there any other ways to be treated? Microsuction is the treatment of choice for ear wax if simple measures aren’t working. There are guidelines about referral to the local service at Sawston. http://www.choosewellcambs.nhs.uk/Microsuction%20Pathway%20V3.pdf
If you do not qualify for NHS microsuction, or don’t want to wait, there are many local private options at both the private hospitals run by ENT surgeons to which you can self-refer, and at some private clinics (we recommend you evaluate carefully any private service you visit to ensure you are happy with the service they offer) https://www.nuffieldhealth.com/hospitals/cambridge/treatments/microsuction-of-ear-canal
They all recommend using olive oil for at least a week to make micro-suction easier and more comfortable.