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At Regain Hearing, our audiologists know only too well how uncomfortable ear wax buildup can be and that it can also impact how well you hear. If you are considering syringing your ears at home, please read this information beforehand and if you have any questions about ear wax removal, feel free to call us on 0800 028 6763.
Does Syringing Ears at Home Work?
Syringing ears at home has a low success rate and may be dangerous. Guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) specify that ear wax removal should only be performed with professional irrigation equipment or a microsuction device that doesn’t use water.
You should never syringe ears at home if you have:
- Ear pain
- Previously had a perforated eardrum
- An ear infection or one that has recently occurred
- A smelly discharge (this could indicate an ear infection)
- Previously undergone ear surgery
- Hearing in one ear only
- Abrupt hearing loss
- Unidentified objects in the ear
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Symptoms of tinnitus such as buzzing, ringing or whistling sounds.
Possible Side Effects of Syringing Ears at Home
Before an audiologist performs any type of ear wax removal, they will examine your ear to ensure the symptoms you are experiencing are caused by an accumulation of extra wax or foreign objects rather than any other reason. This is carried out using an otoscope, a piece of equipment gently inserted into the ear canal to enable an audiologist to look at the inner ear and eardrum.
As you cannot properly inspect your own ears before syringing at home, potentially serious issues can often go undetected. Additionally, there are a number of possible risks if you try to syringe your own ears.
The side effects from ear syringing include:
- Otitis externa (middle ear infection). This is a frequent side effect and may result from ear canal inflammation or water that becomes trapped.
- Perforated eardrums. Although not as common as ear infections, ear syringing at home can occasionally cause the wax to become more compacted by compressing it. This raises the possibility of eardrum perforation by increasing pressure on the eardrum. In certain cases, water stuck in the inner ear may create pressure to the point where the eardrum can rupture.
- Hearing impairment. While rare, damage from syringing your own ears can cause a temporary or permanent reduction in hearing or even deafness.
- Tinnitus. Because it is not possible to accurately control the pressure of the water when you syringe ears at home, when water hits your eardrum with too much force, this can cause the ear muscles to spasm and damage the eardrum. This can cause tinnitus (when you hear a ringing, buzzing, whistling, or clicking sound in your ear). Normally this will only last a few days, but it can last months or may even be permanent.
A study about ear syringing published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) investigated the serious issues connected to routine ear syringing. Problems associated with ear syringing included:
- Inability to remove wax in 29% of cases
- Causing otitis media (a middle ear infection) in 17% of cases
- Eardrum perforation in 15% of cases
- Damage to the ear canal in 11% of cases.
A ruptured ear drum, a middle ear or ear canal infection, and tinnitus are all potential side effects of ear syringing. At Regain Hearing, our preferred way to remove compacted ear wax is with the microsuction technique. Our audiologists advise against syringing ears at home.
What Are the Alternatives to Syringing Ears at Home?
The most effective way to remove wax is with microsuction ear wax removal performed by a qualified audiologist. But if you want to initially try to treat earwax buildup at home, the safest way to do this is with ear drops designed to break down ear wax. You can ask your pharmacy for advice about correctly using ear drops for ear wax removal.
Generally, you will need to use ear drops two to three times every day over 14 days. Always administer drops to the affected ear as instructed and never put cotton wool in your ear afterwards, as this will soak up the solution and prevent it from working properly.
Using ear drops to get rid of ear wax could potentially worsen your hearing. Therefore, if you have wax buildup in both ears, we suggest addressing a single ear at a time. Within 14 days, the wax is usually soft enough to allow its detachment and will be naturally expelled from your ear without further assistance.
Hearing Aids and Compacted Ear Wax
When you wear hearing aids, you will potentially encounter ear wax buildup since the wax is restricted from exiting the ear canal by the device. As earwax accumulates, it can get into your hearing aids and prevent them from functioning properly. This makes it crucial to routinely clean your hearing aids and you may need to have ear wax removed occasionally.
- Why has the NHS stopped ear syringing?
If done incorrectly, ear syringing is potentially harmful as it may cause damage to the ear canal and eardrum. In one survey published by the BMJ, 38% of GPs reported complications following ear syringing, including eardrum perforations. It was removed from GP surgeries because it is not considered an essential treatment.
- Can I use cotton buds to remove earwax?
Do not try to remove the wax by using cotton buds in your ear canals! Not only can you force the wax deeper into the ear, but you might also harm the eardrum and end up causing ear infections or even a perforated eardrum.
- Is ear wax removal with ear candling safe?
Even though many individuals online claim how effective ear candling is, we don’t suggest it as a treatment for ear wax removal. Not only is there no clinical evidence that it is effective it has been known to damage the inner ear and result in terrible burns.
- Can ear wax buildup cause tinnitus?
Tinnitus is associated with ear wax buildup as compacted ear wax prevents sound from reaching the ear canal. But it is essential to consult an audiologist if you have any symptoms because other factors can cause tinnitus.
- Can ear wax buildup affect hearing?
Research indicates that hearing is better in 33% of patients following ear wax removal. At Regain Hearing, we have been told numerous times that after microsuction ear wax removal, patients have noticed they have clearer hearing and are more aware of sounds they could not hear, such as birds chirping.
- Do I need to clean the wax out of my ears?
You shouldn’t need to clean wax out of your ears as the skin cells in the ear drum and ear canal are constantly shedding and removing ear wax. However, certain individuals produce greater amounts of wax than others, or their ears do not remove wax fully.
This can lead to wax buildup inside the ear and can sometimes result in a feeling of obstruction. When this happens, microsuction ear wax removal treatment is the safest and most effective way to get rid of compacted earwax.
- How often should you have ear wax removed?
Most individuals will only require ear wax removal every six to 12 months, although some may need more frequent treatment. If you have symptoms of ear wax buildup or have noticed a change in your hearing, you should seek advice from an audiologist.
At Regain Hearing, we offer the most advanced microsuction ear wax removal. If you’re worried about impacted earwax or have noticed a change in your hearing, please call us or fill in our form to arrange an appointment with our skilled audiologists at one of our Regain Hearing clinics in London, Kent, and Essex.