Many people are finding it increasingly difficult to access wax removal services through their GP. Whilst this has been a known issue for the last couple of years, it has been particularly heightened in light of Covid-19 as GPs have had to further reduce their face-to-face services.
In response to this, our local GPs are often referring their patients to us and as a result we have seen our wax removal clinic grow exponentially. However, we have also seen that there is much confusion as to the preparation for a wax removal appointment, as patients transition from traditional water methods used by their GP; Irrigation/Syringing, to the method of Microsuction, which is widely common practice in the private sector.
What is Microsuction?
Microsuction uses a small, sterile, low-power suction device to efficiently remove obstructions from the ear canal, whilst under the direct vision of a binocular microscope. The use of the microscope allows the clinician to see a clear and magnified view of the delicate structures of the ear throughout the procedure. Albeit a little noisy, Microsuction is the preferred method for clinicians and patients alike, as it puts less pressure on the eardrum and has a lower chance of infection in comparison to Irrigation (Syringing).
The preparation for Microsuction differs from Irrigation, in that we only require olive oil or ear drops to be used in the ears the night before an appointment. In most cases Microsuction can also be used if no drops have been used at all (for example in the case of same-day appointments). Microsuction is more effective if the wax is not over softened. It is also worth mentioning that if you have used oil in the weeks running up to your appointment and then stopped, your ears will not suddenly “dry out” so do not panic and use more oil in fear that the wax will not be softened enough. In fact, over-oiling leads to a more difficult wax removal when using Microsuction.
What is Irrigation?
Traditional methods such as Irrigation, commonly known as Syringing, uses warm water at a controlled pressure to flush the wax out of the ear. Therefore, the recommendation is to oil the ears for days/weeks to get the wax to a very soft consistency making it easier to flush out. Irrigation is/was the method most commonly used by your local GP practice.
Will Olive Oil Clear My Ears?
It has often been recommended that if your ears feel blocked, you should try to unblock them using Olive Oil or ear drops. In some, often rare cases this line of treatment will work, however in our experience it is unlikely. Adding drops or oil to an ear blocked with wax, can often makes the issue worse. Changing the consistency of the wax from a solid to a liquid makes the wax spread around the canal and across the eardrum where it can temporarily reduce your hearing. If you do decide to try ear drops, please read the instructions carefully and do not use them for longer than recommended as they can lead to irritation in the ear.
Choosing the Right Practice
As we have seen a surge in demand for wax removal services, we have also seen a rise in wax removal offerings which can sometimes seem too good to be true. On average, a reputable clinic will charge anywhere from £75-£125 for a wax removal appointment. You may be able to find it cheaper with a national provider, however, wait times, qualifications and equipment will vary.
At Chalfont Hearing, our fully qualified Audiologists and Clinical Ear Care Specialists use a floor standing ENT microscope so we can clearly see the delicate structures of the ear canal at all times whilst we perform Microsuction. The visual capabilities of this equipment will far supersede any magnifying glasses or headgear, which is imperative when operating in what can sometimes be an ear canal measuring only 2-3mm. Our Microsuction equipment is also hospital grade, and therefore not transportable. For this reason, home wax appointments are not available.
In some cases, when a patient has lost their hearing and they believe It to be wax, upon inspection no wax is found. This could be a medical emergency. At Chalfont Hearing, our clinicians are trained to identify all hearing conditions, and will be able to provide further testing and advice in an emergency.
Be sure that when you book a wax removal appointment, that your provider is able to identify and address a medical emergency promptly if it is not wax.
- If you suddenly lose your hearing and you’re not sure if it is wax, get it checked out as soon as possible, as if it is not wax you may require urgent medical treatment in order to regain your hearing.
- Do NOT use cotton buds. We see all sorts of preventable injuries caused by using cotton buds. Often these just push wax deeper into the ear and have a risk of perforating the ear drum.
- Avoid over-oiling. Oiling for weeks on end is only advisable when using Irrigation, it actually makes it harder when using microsuction if the wax is too soft.
- Avoid over-using ear drops, as these can be an irritant to the delicate ear canal.
- If in doubt, call your local practice and enquire about the method of wax removal that they use, along with the preparation required.
To find out more about Wax Removal at Chalfont Hearing Click Here