Moorside Surgery - Ear Syringing (2024)

What is ear wax?

Ear wax is a build-up of dead cells, hair, foreign material such as dust, and cerumen. Cerumen is the natural wax produced by glands in the ear. t forms a protective coating of the skin in the ear canal. Small amounts are made all the time. Flakes or crusts of ear wax break off and fall out of the ear from time to time.

The quantity of earwax made varies greatly from person to person. Some people form plugs of earwax in their ear canal. This may cause a feeling of fullness and dulled hearing. It can feel uncomfortable. A hard plug of ear wax can also sometimes cause 'ringing in the ear' (tinnitus) or even a mild type of dizziness (vertigo).

A doctor or nurse can look into the ear canal and confirm a plug of ear wax has formed. A plug of ear wax is not a serious problem, more a nuisance. You only need to remove ear wax if it is causing symptoms such as dulled hearing. Ear wax may also need to be removed for fitting of a hearing aid, or if a doctor or nurse needs to examine your ear drum.

Note: do not try to clean the ear canal with cotton wool buds, etc. This can make things worse, as you will push some ear wax deeper inside. It may also cause an ear infection. So, let the ear clean itself.

What can I do if ear wax builds up and causes symptoms?

Ear drops

Ear drops alone will often clear a plug of ear wax. You can buy drops from pharmacies. For example, olive oil, almond oil, sodium bicarbonate, and sodium chloride ear drops are commonly used for this purpose. Warm the drops to room temperature before using them (let the bottle stand in the room for about half an hour). Pour a few drops into the affected ear. Lie with the affected ear uppermost when putting in drops. Stay like this for 5 minutes to allow the drops to soak into the ear wax. The ear wax is softened and it often breaks up if you put drops in 2-3 times a day for 2 weeks. Flakes or crusts of ear wax often fall out bit by bit. You may not notice the wax as it comes out of your ear.

Ear bulbs

If the wax does not clear after the use of ear drops, you can self-treat with a Bulb Syringe. A bulb syringe is a small bulb shaped rubber object that will fill with water and allow the user to squirt the water gently into the ear to remove ear wax. You can buy it from most pharmacies or online. The benefits of an ear bulb are:

  • You can use it yourself without needing to make an appointment to see the practice nurse.
  • Reduces the risk of infection from standard ear irrigation.
  • Many patients who use the bulb syringe are successfully treated.
  • The patient can control the water pressure applied in the ear and respond to any discomfort.
  • It is cheap to buy and can be reused so you can repeat the procedure if required.
  • Hearing aids can benefit from regular ear wax removal, as the dense wax can sometimes lead to feedback and whistling noise and affect the quality of sound from the hearing aid.

How to use an ear bulb

(If you experience any pain during this procedure stop immediately and see the practice nurse for review)

  • Put some clean warm (not hot) water into a bowl. Squirt the bulb syringe in the water a few times to fill it up with warm water.
  • Hold your head to one side so the affected ear is facing upwards. You can do this in the shower or bath or lay on the bed with a towel underneath your head.
  • Gently pull your ear in an upwards and outwards direction so that the water gets better access to the ear canal. Hold the nozzle inside the ear canal (not too deeply) and gently squirt the water from the bulb syringe into the ear. You can gently squirt more water into the ear if needed. Leave the water in your ear for 1-3 minutes to soften the wax.
  • Tilt your head over the sink so the water can fall out. Wiggle the outer part of the ear to help the water and wax come out.
  • Repeat for the other ear if both ears are affected.

Do not use a bulb syringe in the following circ*mstances:

  • If you have a history of ear drum perforation in the affected ear.
  • Symptoms of infection in the ear - usually pain or a smelly discharge.
  • Previous surgery on the affected ear.

Ear irrigation (formerly known as ear syringing)

Please only book an appointment for this if there is still no improvement after use of an ear bulb.

Ear irrigation may be needed if ear drops and an ear bulb do not work. The ear canal is washed out with warm water. Irrigating the ear with water will usually clear plugs of earwax. But it is only safe if the plug of earwax has been softened. Irrigation when the wax is hard increases the risks of perforating the ear drum. Therefore, use ear drops (such as olive oil ear drops) to soften wax 2-3 times a day for 2 weeks before you have ear irrigation. If you have not used ear drops as directed then the irrigation is not likely to be successful and you will need to come back to the surgery another time. If your hearing has improved then please cancel the ear irrigation appointment as it will not be needed.

Ear irrigation is usually painless. Lukewarm water is squirted into the ear canal. This dislodges the softened plug which then falls out with the water. Washing is stopped if you feel discomfort. Your ear is examined with a light and is checked by the Nurse/HCA before you leave.

Some people feel dizzy after ear irrigation but this quickly settles. The ear canal may be prone to infection for 4 to 5 days until more wax is produced to protect it. Some people develop an inflammation in the ear canal following ear irrigation. This causes itch and discomfort but can be treated with ear drops. Rarely, ear irrigation can cause damage to the ear or eardrum. Therefore, see a doctor or nurse after ear irrigation if you:

  • Develop any ear pain.
  • Develop troublesome itch in the ear.
  • Develop a discharge from the ear.
  • Have swelling of the tissues around the ear canal (which may indicate infection).

Ear irrigation may not be advised if you have certain ear problems. In particular, if you:

  • Have had complications following this procedure in the past.
  • Currently have grommets in place (grommets are small plastic tubes placed in the eardrums in an operation).
  • Have had ear surgery in the past (apart from grommets that have come out at least 18 months previously and you have been discharged from the hospital ear department).
  • Have a cleft palate (even if it has been repaired).
  • Have an ear infection or have had an ear infection in the previous six weeks.
  • Have recurring infections of the ear canal (recurring otitis externa).
  • Have, or have had, a burst (perforated) ear drum.

If ear irrigation does not work, or is not advised, you may be referred to an ear specialist for removal of troublesome ear wax.

Can I prevent a build-up of ear wax?

Some people are troubled by repeated build-up of ear wax and require ear irrigation every so often. In this situation, to prevent ear wax building up and forming a plug, it is recommended to use ear drops regularly - for example, olive oil ear drops, once or twice a week to keep the wax soft and minimise build up.

Moorside Surgery  - Ear Syringing (2024)


Why are my ears still blocked after syringing? ›

There are a few reasons that your ears could still feel blocked after Water Irrigation: Having blocked ears for weeks or months can cause a lot of pressure to build up, which will then relieve once the blockage is removed, but occasionally it can take time for this pressure to disperse.

Why do doctors not syringe ears anymore? ›

There are several reasons this service is often no longer offered in primary care, some of which are based on misunderstandings. First, manual water-filled syringes for flushing out earwax can cause high pressure of water and might damage the patient's ears – not something a GP wants to be responsible for doing.

Does ear syringing always work? ›

Many patients who use the bulb syringe are successfully treated. The patient can control the water pressure applied in the ear and respond to any discomfort. It is cheap to buy and can be reused so you can repeat the procedure if required.

How long does it take for hearing to come back after syringing? ›

Once the earwax is gone, any symptoms will usually improve over a day or two. Once your ear syringing procedure is complete, we'll provide you with professional advice on how to avoid a further buildup of ear wax, and safely care for your ears in the future.

Why do my ears still feel clogged after cleaning them? ›

When your ear canal makes more earwax than needed, the wax may get hard and block the ear. When cleaning the ear, you can accidentally push the wax deeper, causing a blockage. Your ear canal produces a waxy oil called cerumen, which is more commonly known as earwax.

What do they do instead of syringing ears? ›

GP surgery treatment to remove earwax

Some can: flush the wax out with water (ear irrigation) suck the wax out (microsuction)

Is ear syringing outdated? ›

Ear syringing is an outdated method of ear wax removal which has lost popularity over the years in favour of ear irrigation.

What happens if ear wax cannot be removed? ›

A build-up of earwax in your ear can cause: earache. hearing loss. tinnitus (hearing sounds from inside your body)

Do nurses still syringe ears? ›

As ear syringing is no longer one of the core services of the NHS, it has been moved to the category of a specialist treatment. Therefore, you will have to make alternative arrangements to have this ear treatment sorted out. What is the impact of this change?

How many times can you have your ears syringed? ›

For some people, a once-a-year visit to the ear care clinic is often sufficient but for many, having ear wax removed every six months may be recommended. If your ears are naturally prone to produce excessive wax then a quarterly appointment is likely to be needed.

How to get something deep out of your ear? ›

By placing the affected ear down and gently wiggling the ear pinna, you may be able to shift the object enough to cause it to fall out. If an object becomes lodged in the ear and this technique fails, it is usually best to have it removed by a doctor who can view the object with proper lighting and instruments.

Which is best, ear syringing or suction? ›

Microsuction is considered to be safer and more effective compared to ear syringing, as it avoids touching the sensitive skin of the ear canal and will have no contact with the ear drum. This means that the risk of infection is reduced.

What dissolves ear wax immediately? ›

If the aim is to completely break down the wax, waxsol, peroxide 3% or a sodium bicarbonate solution (which can be prepared by your local pharmacist) is effective.

What should you not do after ear syringing? ›

What Not To Do After Ear Wax Removal
  • Inserting cotton swabs or buds into your ear – this can lead to ear wax being pushed further back into your ear canal.
  • Ear candles and other home remedies that are not advised by medical professionals.
  • Overcleaning your ears.

What is the best solution for syringing ears? ›

A saline ear solution is used to perform a procedure known as ear irrigation. The salinity in the water is effective in breaking up and earwax and removing it with ease. You can buy an irrigation kit, which is a combination of water and saline solution, or make a saline solution at home.

Why is my hearing muffled after ear wax removal? ›

Noise damage

The equipment used during ear wax removal does generate some noise, which some find to be very loud. In minimal cases, this can cause temporary short lived hearing loss, known as a temporary threshold shift. This occasionally happens when tiny muscles contract to protect the ear against noise.

Why do my ears still ring after syringing? ›

Sometimes, there could be temporary tinnitus after ear syringing, and the tinnitus would go away after a few hours, but at other times, it could last for much longer depending on several factors, including the type of injuries sustained and what part of the ear the damage was done to.

How do you get water out of your ears after Syringing? ›

Shake your head side-to-side to move the fluid around and help find its way out. This method requires you to lie down on your side and stay still for a few minutes. With the help of gravity, you will hopefully notice the water slowly trickling out of your ear.

How long does it take for blocked ear wax to clear up? ›

After about a week, the earwax should soften and come out on its own, or move so it no longer blocks your ear. Don't use drops if: You have past history of hole in your eardrum (a perforated eardrum)

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