What are the symptoms of ear wax?
Ear wax commonly causes reduced hearing and a feeling of blocked ears. Less commonly patients experience ear pain, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or vertigo (a spinning sensation). Very rarely, impacted wax can lead to a perforated eardrum or ear infection.
How can I prevent ear wax build up?
Avoid putting anything into your ears e.g. cotton buds, matchsticks or hairpins. These tend to push wax further in where it then becomes impacted against the eardrum.
What can I do to treat earwax in the first instance?
Drops are available from the chemist. These should be used for up to 2 weeks and are often very effective.
What is available at my GP surgery to treat ear wax?
As you would expect, as a GP surgery our priority is to see patients on the basis of clinical need. This means that we aim to ensure that patients who are medically unwell are seen most urgently. Ear wax can be a very uncomfortable and inconvenient problem but is not a medical emergency. At Riverview Medical Centre we offer dedicated routine appointments each week for patients with ear wax. There may be a waiting list for these appointments and you will be offered the next available appointment as soon as it becomes available. We would suggest that you do the following if you think you have ear wax which is causing you problems:
- Make an appointment with the healthcare assistant for an ear check. She will examine your ears.
- If wax is present and is blocking the ear drum, you will be given a prescription for oil drops.
- Please use the drops every day for at least 2 weeks.
Instructions for using all ear drops for removing wax:
- Remove the cap from the bottle
- Tilt your head over to one side with the affected ear facing up
- Gently pull the top part of the ear backwards and upwards.
- Gently squeeze up to 5 drops into the ear.
- Keep your head tilted for at least 5 minutes to allow the drops to sink in.
- Repeat in the other ear if necessary.
- Do NOT put cotton wool in your ears when using the drops as this stops them from working.
What happens if the wax hasn’t cleared with the oil drops?
You will be offered an appointment for ear syringing. There is a waiting list for these appointments and you will be contacted when the next appointment is available. In the meantime please continue to use the oil drops – if the wax isn’t soft when you come for syringing then we can’t perform this.
Why do we not carry out ear syringing straight away?
Often ear wax will clear with drops alone. There are several potentially serious complications from ear syringing. These include pain, vertigo, worsening of any tinnitus (which may then become permanent), an ear infection (rarely this can become a very severe infection such as meningitis), a perforated ear drum and (very rarely) a heart attack or even death. Please note that if the ear drum is not completely blocked by wax then syringing is not required.
What if I don’t want to wait for the next available appointment?
You may wish to purchase a self-irrigation kit from the chemist or online which allows you to syringe your ears at home. We would still recommend using the oil ear drops for at least a week prior to trying this, to soften the wax. We are not able to endorse a particular brand. Alternatively you may wish to consider having microsuction carried out privately at a local clinic – there are many clinics locally, some in opticians and chemists. Microsuction is also available at the Nuffield or Ross Hall hospitals and at some local Opticians – you can self-refer for this.