Ear Wax

Ear Wax

If there is a buildup of wax in your ear(s) please read the following self-help guide as you may not need an appointment. Ear irrigation/syringing is no longer provided on the NHS. Micro-suction is the preferred method of wax extraction if simple measures do not work but this is only available on the NHS to those who have had previous middle ear reconstruction surgery or surgery for mastoid problems.

What is ear wax?

Ear wax is normal and is produced to form a protective coating over the skin in the ear canal. Ears are normally self-cleaning. The movement of the jaw whilst eating and talking helps to move wax along the ear canal where it will usually fall out naturally without you noticing.

Why is my ear blocked with wax?

The amount of ear wax produced varies from person to person, some people produce excess amounts which can lead to blockage in the ear canal.

You are more likely to develop a blockage of wax in the canal if you:

  • Use cotton ear buds to clean the ears as this pushes wax deeper into the canal, the use of cotton buds is not recommended
  • Wear a hearing aid, ear plugs or in-ear headphones – as these can all interfere with the natural process of wax expulsion
  • Have abnormally narrow ear canals
  • Have particularly hairy ear canals
  • Are elderly – because the ear wax you produce is drier and harder
  • Have a dry skin problem such as eczema or psoriasis

Advice to help you manage and prevent ear wax blockage

Ear wax only becomes a problem if it causes deafness, discomfort or if your Health Professional requires a clear view of your ear drum.

Olive Oil drops or Spray

The following needs to be done 2-3 times daily for 2 weeks to one month:

  • Lie on your side with the affected ear uppermost
  • Pull the outer ear gently backwards and upwards to straighten the ear canal
  • Stay lying on your side to allow the oil to soak in for around 10 minutes
  • Afterwards, wipe away any excess oil but do not plug your ear with cotton wool as this simply absorbs the oil

Your hearing problem may initially worsen after first starting to use olive oil drops which is why we advise you to concentrate on treating one ear at a time if both ears are blocked with wax.

In most cases after 14 days the wax will have softened sufficiently to encourage the wax to come out without further intervention.

Ear wax kits

There are various other products/kits available at local pharmacies which you could consider exploring. The surgery does not endorse any particular product.

If your ears are regularly becoming blocked with wax then after clearing the blockage we would recommend using olive oil drops around once per week to help prevent the further build up of wax.

Private Micro-suction options

You can see various local businesses who provide private micro-suction on the map below. Some will check for wax for free before then offering to clear the wax for a fee.