Wax removal, ear examination

Wax Removal

Sound Advice Hearing was one of the first private hearing centres in the UK to provide a private wax removal service.  Paul Scigala was one of a small group of 4 Hearing Aid Audiologists chosen to be trained by the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (BSHAA) to be Clinical Ear Care Practitioners and then to go on and become BSHAA Clinical Ear Care trainers to help educate and train other Audiologists in this field.  Sound Advice Hearing also provide a micro suction wax removal service enabling us to offer a very comprehensive clinical ear care wax removal service, expert ear care and advice on wax management.

Otoscopic examination, ear wax removalWhat is ear wax?

Wax is an important and natural secretion found in the ear.  It protects the ear against dust, dirt and bacteria, so it helps to prevent infection.  Wax, or cerumen as it is also known, is composed of epithelium (skin cells), dust and oily secretions from the sebaceous and ceruminous glands in the ear canal.

These secretions lubricate the ear canal and prevent it becoming too dry. The composition of wax varies from individual to individual depending on diet, age and environment.

What should you do about ear wax build up?

If wax is not causing any problems, it is best left alone.  The ear is self-cleaning and the wax should clear naturally, so it is unnecessary to try to remove the wax yourself.

If wax is noticed on the outer ear, a wipe with a clean flannel may be all that is needed.  Sometimes, however, wax may build up, particularly if it is very dry or if the person has a narrow or hairy ear canal.  Wax may also build up if it has been pushed down the canal by cotton buds, hearing aids, etc.

Cotton buds can also irritate the ear canal, stripping it of its natural oils and causing it to feel itchy.  When water gets into the ear during swimming or showering this may cause the wax to expand, giving a sensation of ‘blockage’ in the ear and increasing the perception of tinnitus.

If wax build up is causing deafness, problems with hearing aids, or is uncomfortable, it may need to be removed.  Some people with tinnitus feel that their tinnitus is more troublesome when their ears are full of wax.

What clinical methods are used to remove ear wax?

It is important to understand that certain methods may not be applicable depending on an individuals medical history / case history.  Each patient will be individually assessed to determine which is the safest and most appropriate method to ensure that earwax is removed safely from the ear canal.  This can sometimes involve one or a combination of one or more of the procedures listed below.

  • Irrigation

One of the most frequent ways to remove wax in general practice is by ear irrigation.  This is generally a quick and painless procedure but cannot be carried out if the person has had any ear surgery, recent infections or a perforation of the ear drum.

During this procedure, the person sits in a chair and the ear is rinsed with warm water from an electronic irrigator.  The wax and water is collected in a small tank which the patient holds under their ear.  In the past clinicians used a large metal syringe; however the new electronic irrigators, which have controlled pressures, are gentler and safer.  Ear irrigation does make some noise but this is not excessive or uncomfortable.  Most people who have irrigation find it to be a fairly pleasant procedure.

  •  Micro-Suction

Wax can also be removed by micro-suction.    This is a less invasive procedure compared to irrigation and can be carried out on people with whom irrigation is not suitable, or for those that prefer not to have water in their ears.  For this procedure the ear canal is suctioned via a small nosel connected to a vacuum pump which gently suctions the earwax. The procedure is quick, safe and painless, and doesn’t involve putting water into your ear.  Like irrigation, there is some noise but it is not excessive or uncomfortable.

  • Endoscopic Micro Suction

E-suction™ gently vacuums ear wax out of the ear under direct vision using a specially developed iCLEARscope™ endoscope. This provides an alternative method of visualising the ear wax with an endoscope rather than using loupes or an operating microscope commonly used for micro suction   N.B This procedure is currently only performed at our Clinic in Washingborough, Lincolnshire.

  • Instrumentation

Wax may also be removed by a clinician using a headlight / endoscope and instruments.  Instrumentation may be used in conjunction with the above procedures to provide an effective method in removing earwax.

With all of the procedures that we perform we are able to accommodate patients without lengthy delays.