Earwax is a normal build-up of dead cells, hair, and foreign material such as dust, and natural wax which forms a protective coating on the skin in the ear canal. The quantity of earwax produced varies greatly from person to person. The movement of your jaw while eating and talking naturally moves the wax along the canal. A plug of earwax is not a serious problem. You only need to remove earwax if it is causing symptoms such as dulled hearing or when fitting a hearing aid.
Ear irrigation – also known as ear syringing is no longer recommended as first line treatment for blocked ears. Ear irrigation can lead to ear infections, perforated ear drum and tinnitus which is a persistent noise. In line with this we are now offering a new ear care service designed to support you in self-managing the build-up of ear wax. The national guidance is that ear drops should be used to soften the wax which will then enable the natural movement of the wax from the ear.
Olive oil ear drops are recommended and these can be purchased from your local pharmacist who can also give you additional advice. Ear drops should be administered 2-3 times a day instilling 4-5 drops in the affected ear for 7 to 10 days, but can be continued for up to 3 weeks.
Further information and treatment advice can be found by downloading our leaflet ‘Instillation of ear drops’ and our videos at the bottom of the page which demonstrate self-administration of ear drops and supported administration of ear drops.
If the above self-treatment is unsuccessful in removing your ear wax after 3 weeks of treatment and it is affecting your level of hearing further management can be obtained through the community services Single Point of Access: 0161 763 8525. (Heywood, Middleton & Rochdale patients only)
You can’t prevent earwax. It’s there to protect your ears from dirt and germs. However, you can keep using ear drops to soften the wax. This will help it fall out on its own and should prevent blocked ears. If you are prone to repeated wax build up you can continue to use olive oil drops twice a week to prevent recurrence.
The amount of wax produced varies from person to person. Some people produce excessive amounts of wax and this can block the ear canal, wearing a hearing aid, ear plugs and or head phones can interfere with wax expulsion and if you are elderly – the wax produced may be harder and drier.
If you think you have ear wax, do not try to clean the ear canal with cotton wool buds. This can make things worse, as you will push some earwax deeper inside. It may also cause an ear infection. Do not use objects such as matches, hair grips, crochet hooks, knitting needles, keys etc. this can cause trauma and possible infection.
If your ears are itchy do not scratch or rub them with your finger nails or any other objects.
Try and keep your ears dry. When washing your hair, showering or swimming putting some Vaseline around the inner part of your ear can help. Don’t put your head under the water when bathing. If you regularly get blocked ears, use ear drops weekly/fortnightly to soften the wax.