What is Ear Irrigation?

Ear wax removal by irrigation replaces the old fashioned technique of ear syringing. It is safe, effective and comfortable method of removing ear wax

Ear Irrigation Technique 

Ear wax irrigation is performed by using an water irrigation to remove ear wax. The irrigator contains a water storage reservoir and a hand-held nozzle which gently pumps water into the ear canal at a controlled and steady rate. The water breaks down and dislodges the ear wax build-up, it then flushes the ear wax out of the canal and it is captured in a flask called a noots tank. The procedure can take between 15 to 20 minutes depending on the amount of ear wax. 

Prior to treatment the ear wax must be softened with olive oil ear drops for 7-10 days. 

Benefits of Ear Irrigation.

 Provided the ear wax is not fully impacted and blocking the ear, irrigation technique can be effective at removing ear wax. It can also be performed at your local GP practice by your nurse, although many GP practices are no longer offering ear irrigation services due to it’s limitations and inherent side effects (see below). However, if ear wax irrigation is successful at removing ear wax it avoids having to have the ear wax removed by some other treatment method. Some people can also find the ear wax irrigation procedure therapeutic.

Side Effects 

Ear irrigation is generally regarded as a safe alternative to ear syringing, however not everyone is suitable for earwax removal by irrigation. Our qualified pharmacists will carry out a comprehensive consultation with you to determine suitability. 

Ear Wax irrigation is contraindicated if you have:

  • A perforated eardrum, or if you have had a perforation in the last 12 months.
  • Previously had problems with irrigation, such as pain in your ear or severe vertigo.
  • Have a discharge of mucus from your ear or have had an ear infection in the preceding two months.
  • You have had any ear surgery (apart from cases of extruded grommets which had come out at least 18 months beforehand).
  • Have recurring or persistent infections of the ear canal.
  • You have had a middle ear infection (otitis media) in the past six weeks.
  • You have a foreign object inside the ear canal.
It is important to note that no treatment of ear wax removal is completely ‘risk-free’. Some of the known ear wax irrigation side effects and risks include:
  • Ear canal discomfort or pain.
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
  • Temporary faintness, dizziness or vertigo if the water is not at body temperature. This is due to the ‘caloric’ effect and is normally only short lasting.
  • Ear wax being further impacted into the ear canal by the water being pumping into the ear.
  • An outer ear canal infection (e.g. otitis externa). This is more likely in people who have eczema or history of developing ear infections.
  • Damage and trauma to the ear canal and eardrum (including perforation).
  • Infection of the porous and air-filled bone surrounding the ear (mastoiditis).
  • Hearing loss (temporary or permanent). This is rare.

Side effects are typically short-lasting and go away within a day. If you experience pain or discomfort that gets worse instead of better or have any other symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor. If you experience severe pain, make an appointment to see them right away in case you have a perforated eardrum or other ear damage.

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