Different Types of Ear Wax Removal
If you’re dealing with excess ear wax or suspect you have a blockage, you need to know about the different types of ear wax removal. In a previous post, we covered what ear wax is and how to know if you need to have it removed, so we won’t rehash that here. Check out What Is Ear Wax? And How Much Is Too Much? if need be.
If you believe you need excess earwax removed, here’s what to do (and what NOT to do).
Natural Is Best
First off, natural is best. And in this case, by “natural” we do not mean products that are marketed that way; we mean your ear’s natural self-cleaning process.
Your ears are nearly always perfectly capable of cleaning themselves. This is why earwax comes out of your ears in the first place. When you find bits of wax in the outer opening of your ear, that’s your ears cleaning themselves and dispensing with the excess ear wax. Simply wipe away this excess with a cloth or rinse it away in the shower.
That being said, it is possible for wax overrun your ear’s natural cleaning process. If earwax builds up too much, it can lead to a partial or full blockage.
What NOT to Do: Do Not Use a Cotton Bud
Before we get any further, please note this important warning: Do NOT use a cotton bud or other pointy object to reach into your ear canal and remove wax. You may succeed in removing a small amount of wax (which you see on the cotton bud when you remove it). But you will also likely shove more wax deeper into your ear canal, leading to eventual blockage.
You also run the risk of pushing the cotton bud too far in and damaging your eardrum.
Since cotton buds push wax deeper in and can even damage your ear canal or ear drum, you should never stick one (or anything else) into your ear canal.
Home Remedies: Drops
If you’re dealing with uncomfortable earwax build-up, there are some home remedies you can try before you head to a hearing clinic or your GP. NHS recommends starting with medical-grade olive or almond oil, which you drip into your ear a few times a day for around a week. These oils can be effective in softening the earwax, but they can also cause the wax to expand and therefore we would recommend using oil a few times in a short period prior to an appointment.
A better home remedy is using sodium bicarbonate drops in the same manner. These drops tend to dissolve the wax gradually, letting it run out of the ear. Softening large chunks is a start but dissolving them entirely is even more effective.
You can find sodium bicarbonate drops for this purpose at most any pharmacy.
If you’ve been using drops for a week and aren’t seeing results, it’s time to consult a hearing clinic.
Hearing Clinic Remedies
At Almond Hearing we use three methods for ear wax removal, depending on the patient and the nature of the blockage. We start with a video otoscopy to survey the blockage and determine a treatment type. We then proceed to one of the following.
Micro suction uses a tiny medical-grade suction device to gently pull stubborn wax from the ear canal. We use this tool in combination with a 20x microscope so we can be sure we’re seeing every last detail.
A time-tested method, irrigation uses water to remove earwax using a specialized irrigation machine with variable pressure control. This method is safe even for deeply impacted wax, but it is not safe to use if you have a perforated ear drum.
Last, we may use instrumentation to delicately reach into the outer portion of the ear canal and tease out any remaining portions of wax. Instrumentation is often required when removing foreign objects from the ear and may be used as a complement to another method.