General advice and information
Ear wax is normal and forms a protective coating of the skin in the ear canal. The quantity of wax varies greatly from person to person. If a plug of wax is formed in the ear canal this may cause a feeling of fullness and dulled hearing. Ear wax need only be removed if it is causing severe symptoms.
If earwax builds up and causes symptoms, ENT surgeons recommend the following:
- Use olive oil drops two to four times daily for two weeks
- If symptoms persist, use sodium bicarbonate ear drops, four drops twice daily, for a further two weeks
- Lie on your side with the problem ear facing upwards. Try to pull the outer ear back and towards the top of your head. Stay in this position for a few minutes after instilling drops.
This should clear any blockage. If it doesn’t, make an appointment to see a GP.
IMPORTANT: You will not be able to book an appointment with a nurse for ear wax removal until you have been assessed by a GP. If this procedure is then recommended by the GP, only then you will be able to book.
- The fullness and dulled hearing sometimes get worse in the first week of using drops
- Olive oil can be obtained from the supermarket or pharmacy
- Sodium bicarbonate ear drops are available from the pharmacy
- Do not put cotton buds, paperclips, pens or anything else in your ear canals as they all push wax inwards and pack it into a hard mass. The small hairs in the outer part of the ear canal naturally push wax outwards. Wax can be cleaned away when it appears at the entrance to the canal.
If you have recurrent problems with earwax it is useful to put a few drops of olive oil in your ears at bedtime twice weekly (after they have been cleared fully as above).
How to use olive oil drops
- Lie down on your side with the ear requiring drops facing upwards
- Pull the outer ear backwards and upwards (just backwards in children)
- Drop 2 or 3 drops of oil, at room temperature, into the ear canal and then massage the skin just in front of the entrance to the ear canal to enable the oil to run down the ear canal more easily
- Stay lying down for 5-10 minutes and then get up and wipe away any excess oil with a tissue
- DO NOT put cotton wool in the ear following the drops as this absorbs the oil and prevents the wax coming out
- Repeat the procedure with the opposite ear if required.
You can buy a dropper or pre-measured capsules of olive oil from the chemist if you find this easier.
If you suffer from excessive wax, you can use olive oil drops on a regular basis (once a week) to prevent the build-up of wax and to help the ear clean itself.
What NOT to do
Do not clean your ears with cotton buds, hairgrips, matches etc. These may damage the delicate lining of your ear canal, introduce infection or pierce your ear drum. In addition, they can push the wax further into your ear canal where it becomes impacted and cannot work its way out
Do not scratch your ears as this may cause and help spread infection
Do not use ear candles – they are not effective at removing earwax and may result in serious injury