Earwax is produced by the ears to keep them clean and germ-free. It usually leaves the ear naturally, but in some people too much earwax builds up and blocks the ears. This can obstruct the ear canal and may cause pain, itchiness, loss of hearing, vertigo, tinnitus or ear infections.
A build-up of earwax can often be prevented or treated without the need for a visit to hospital. However, in some cases, where other treatments have not been successful, the removal of earwax by a specialist may be necessary, perhaps under a general anaesthetic. This may occur if a build-up of wax becomes impacted and forms a plug, or if there is a build-up of infected debris or flakes of dry skin.
Your consultant will discuss the exact treatment with you before your operation. Very rarely you may need to be given a general anaesthetic so you are asleep and your muscles are relaxed during the operation. The treatment itself is usually painless.
Your consultant or nurse can use a number of different methods for the removal of earwax.
This uses gentle suction to lift wax out of the ear. Your consultant or nurse may also need to use a microscope to examine the ear in greater detail.
A pump is used to push water into your ear and gently wash out the earwax. This is quick and painless.
Your consultant or nurse uses a fine instrument or probe to gently hook out the earwax.
After treatment the ear should be clear of earwax, improving the symptoms that required treatment. If you are prone to the build-up of earwax, we’ll suggest some ways of preventing any future problems occurring. Sometimes it is recommended that eardrops are used regularly to keep the earwax soft.
If earwax has been removed and the ear canal has been examined and you are still suffering hearing loss or tinnitus, you may need further tests.
Most people can manage the build-up of earwax using ear drops - this helps to keep the earwax soft and to allow it to exit the ear. If a build-up of earwax is not impacted it can often be easily removed by your GP using ear irrigation without the need for anaesthetic.