Ear Wax Removal

How To Remove Earwax; The Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Excessive earwax is a common condition that can cause a lack of hearing. It's important not to put objects such cotton buds in your ears as this pushes the wax in further and can cause pain. Instead, you can use treatments to soften the wax enough or it to fall out naturally, or it can be syringed by a nurse.

What is earwax build-up?

Also referred to as earwax blockage, earwax build-up occurs when cerumen – commonly known as earwax - gathers in the ear and cannot wash away naturally.

Earwax is an important part of your body's natural defences. Without its cleaning and lubricating powers, the ear canal would be unprotected and there would be nothing to trap dirt and slow the growth of bacteria inside the ear. Earwax stops dangerous particles from reaching and potentially damaging or infecting the eardrum, so you wouldn't want to eliminate it completely.

Usually, earwax will fall out on its own, however sometimes it might need some assistance. If you do not take proper measures to remove excess earwax straight away, it can cause several difficulties, including:

  • Increased risk of middle or outer ear infections
  • Perforated eardrum or damaged ear canal
  • Damage to hearing and balance; in fact, you can lose your hearing permanently from acoustic trauma

There are several home remedies for earwax removal, the most common of which include dripping olive or almond oil in your ear.

It is important that you do not use fingers, cotton buds or similar objects to remove earwax as these can push the blockage in deeper, causing further damage.

It's best to use pharmaceutical alternatives, such as eardrops and syringes, to remove earwax, as they tend to be safer and more effective than most home remedies.

If you are unsure about whether your ear is blocked, see your doctor for a diagnosis. They will examine your ear with an otoscope that lights up and magnifies your inner ear to identify any blockages.

Your doctor may be able to treat the blockage during your appointment, but if not, there are several pharmaceutical options you can try at home.

What causes earwax build-up?

The creation of earwax is a natural, essential process that protects your ears and your hearing.

The outer half of your ear canal is lined with glands that secrete earwax. This wax, and the hairs in these passages, trap dust and foreign elements that could damage the inner workings of your ear (for example, the eardrum).

For most people, a small amount of earwax regularly makes its way to the opening of the ear. Here, it is either washed away or pushed out to make room for new wax.

However, if this doesn't happen and the earwax isn't cleaned effectively, it may build up creating a blockage in your ear canal.

This kind of build-up can occur for several different reasons. You may:

  • Naturally have excess wax in your ears
  • Have hair or narrow tubes (canals) connecting the eardrum and outer ear, making it harder for the earwax to move
  • Find that wax gets harder as you get older, so is more difficult to fall out
  • Use hearing aids, earplugs and other instruments you put in your ear

Blockages often occur when people try to clean their ears by placing cotton swabs and similar items in their ears. This just pushes the wax in deeper, instead of removing it, which is known as an 'impaction'. This can become serious if not treated correctly.

You will need to try earwax removal if you have a large build-up of earwax in your ear canal.

What are the symptoms of earwax build-up?

The usual symptoms of earwax build-up are as follows:

  • Earache
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Itchiness
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Ear infection
  • Sounds, including ringing high-pitched tones, coming from inside the ear (tinnitus)
  • Cough
  • Drainage from the ear canal

Once the earwax is removed, these symptoms normally improve. If they do not, you should consult your doctor.

In more severe cases of earwax blockage, you may experience a perforated eardrum or ear infection. In this instance, you should see your doctor.

Earwax removal has some side effects worth considering. The ear canals and eardrums are delicate, so incorrect earwax removal can result in damage to these parts of the ear.

That's why it's best to try less invasive methods (such as ear drops and syringes) first, and then seek medical help if these don't work.

How to treat earwax build-up

The best thing you can do is to prevent build-up from occurring in the first place. This eliminates all the risks associated with earwax removal.

However, earwax is an important part of your body's defences, so you do not want to eliminate it completely. Instead, use eardrops regularly to help soften the wax so it will fall out on its own and prevent blocked ears.

Once you realise that your ear is blocked, you can try home remedies, but you should be aware that some are ineffective and could damage your ears. Remember not to make the blockage worse by pushing the wax further in with a cotton bud or your fingers.

Pharmaceutical methods are more effective and reliable, so they should be your first option.

Try using chemical drops to dissolve the earwax. These will come with their own instructions; however, they are normally used as follows:

  • Tilt your head to one side, and pour a few drops into the affected ear
  • Allow the drops to settle by holding that position for around 5 minutes
  • Sit up straight and allow the drops to drain out by themselves

After a week or so of using the drops, any excess earwax should fall out on its own, or dissolve completely.

Do not use drops if you have a hole in your eardrum (perforated eardrum) or have previously damaged your inner ear.

If you do not wish to use drops, you could try a bulb-type syringe. Use it to gently flush the ear with warm water and expel the excess earwax. The water in the syringe should be at body temperature to prevent dizziness.

Do not use ear candling to get rid of your earwax as it is considered dangerous.

If your ear hasn't cleared after 5 days, or if it is so badly blocked that you can't hear, have lost your balance or have experienced persistent vomiting, a high fever or sudden hearing loss, visit your doctor as soon as possible.

You should note that not all GP practices remove earwax. However, those that do normally use the following methods:

  • Ear irrigation: Flushing the wax out with water, similar to the home syringe method
  • Microsuction: Sucking the wax out using a small machine
  • Curet cleaning: Using an instrument known as a 'curet' to remove excess wax

These procedures are generally painless, although they may not be considered necessary by many NHS practices. You may have therefore need to pay to have these procedures carried out privately.

If you require regular earwax removal, you may need on-going medication or care. In this case, you should try wax-removal kits and the pharmaceutical methods mentioned earlier. However, take care to use these exactly as directed to avoid damaging the ear.

How to buy Ear Wax Removal medication online

To buy Ear Wax Removal medication online, especially if you're time-conscious or have unpleasant symptoms preventing you from getting the treatment in-person, first complete a consultation. Our partner doctor will review and offer you recommendations on the best treatment for you.