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Self-Care Management of Impacted Ear Wax


Ear wax is normal and is produced to form a protective coating over the skin in the ear canal.  Ears are normally self-cleaning – the movement of your jaw whilst eating and talking helps to move the wax along the canal where it will usually fall out naturally without you noticing. 

 

 

 

Why is my ear blocked with wax?


The amount of ear wax produced varies from person to person; some people produce excessive amounts which can lead to a blockage in the ear canal.

 

You are more likely to develop a blockage of wax in the ear canal if you:

  • use cotton ear buds to clean the ear- wax is pushed deeper into the canal
  • wear a hearing aid, ear plugs or use in-ear speakers- these can all interfere with the natural process of wax expulsion
  • are elderly – because the ear wax you produce is drier and harder
  • have a dry skin problem such as eczema or psoriasis

 Ear wax only becomes a problem if it causes deafness, discomfort or if your Health professional requires a clear view or your ear drum.

 

Please seek advice from your nurse, and do not attempt to self–treat if any of the following apply to you:


  • Pain, sudden deafness or buzzing in the ear
  • A history of ear drum perforation or previous surgery in the affected ear
  • Symptoms of infection in the ear – usually pain or a smelly discharge
  • Foreign body in the ear

We recommend the following ear drop regime, and if you remain symptomatic you may also wish to consider using an ear bulb syringe which can be bought at a pharmacy.

 

 

1st Line- Sodium Bicarbonate- 3-5 days

Available from the pharmacy. Follow instructions on the box.

 

 

If you still feel blocked then you need to do the following prior to attending the surgery for assessment.

 


2nd Line- Olive Oil Drops – The following needs to be done 2-3 times daily for 14 days.

  1. Lie on your side with the affected ear uppermost
  2. Pull the outer ear gently backwards and upwards to straighten the ear canal
  3. Put 2-3 drops of olive oil into the affected ear and gently massage just in front of the ear. Do not place any cotton wool in the ear.
  4. Stay laying on your side to allow the wax to soak in for around 5 minutes
  5. Afterwards, wipe away any excess oil

Available from pharmacy with convenient dropper.

 

Your hearing problem may initially worsen after first starting to use the olive oil drops; this is why we advise you to concentrate on treating one ear at a time.

 

 

In most cases, after 14 days, the wax will have softened sufficiently to encourage the wax to come out without further intervention.  Ear irrigation (syringing) carries risks and is best avoided.

 

If your ears are regularly becoming blocked with wax, after clearing the blockage we will usually suggest you use olive oil drops as above around once per week to keep the wax soft and encourage the natural process of wax expulsion.

Please note that you cannot have your ears irrigated if you have:

  • A history of any previous problem with irrigation (pain, perforation, severe dizziness).
  • Current perforation of the ear drum or a history of perforation in the last 12 months.
  • Grommets in place or a history of any ear surgery
  • A middle ear infection in the past 6 weeks.
  • Cleft palate
  • Hearing in only one ear if it is the ear to be treated, as there is a remote chance that irrigation could cause permanent deafness.

If any of the above applies to you and you still feel that your ears are blocked, please follow the above management instructions and then attend the practice nurse for an examination and possible referral.

 

 

 

 

 


 


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