The dangers of DIY earwax removal

Posted 05 May 2020 by Melvyn Howe, Lead Ear Care Practitioner at The Hearing Care Centre.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions our ear care practitioners are currently prohibited by our professional body to offer our usual earwax removal services.

The dangers of DIY earwax removal
This truly is regretful because ears blocked with wax can be extremely unpleasant, causing earache, vertigo and temporary hearing loss, amongst other things.

In these uncertain times I am acutely aware that many people will look to DIY treatments as a solution. We thought the best way we could help at present, would be to point out the inherent dangers of trying to remove earwax yourself and stop you from causing any further problems.

There are a variety of self-cleaning implements available on the market that make claims about how easy it is to clean one's own ears, but at The Hearing Care Centre these are items which we strongly recommend you do NOT use.

Here are 4 points for you to consider:

1. You cannot see inside your ear:

The simple truth is that you cannot see inside your own ears and are unlikely to be aware of any possible complications, such as perforated or weak ear drums, the risk of self-harm or infection. A qualified professional would undertake full video otoscopy prior to any treatment and are trained to recognise diseases of the ear and features that are unusual and also know when to onward refer to specialist medical practitioners.

2. You can cause a lot of damage

The ear is a delicate, well balanced structure that can easily be damaged. The eardrum is the most likely source of any damage you may inflict and can rupture easily even with the slightest pressure. A ruptured eardrum can cause severe pain, leak clear fluid and can possibly even lead to hearing loss.

3. The earwax could become more impacted:

The use of cotton buds and other implements (such as hair grips, pen tops, paper clips etc.) is more likely to push any wax further into the ear canal causing blockages and discomfort. It is also possible that the delicate skin lining will be damaged and the natural bacterial flora of the ear disturbed increasing the chances of infection. Our advice is never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow!

4. An infection could be caused:

By inserting foreign object into the ear canal it is also possible that the delicate skin lining will be damaged and the natural bacterial flora of the ear disturbed increasing the chances of infection. Also if you try to wash your ears out, it can upset the natural pH balance of the ear canal and lead to the possibility of water being trapped. Being a dark, warm and moist place, this can leave the ear canal prone to infection.
Is there anything you can do to safely help yourself?

1. Earwax softening:

Olive oil and other remedies will not necessarily remove wax by itself, but can be used as an effective ‘softening agent’. Before professional removal of earwax we would usually recommend the use of olive oil for 5 days preceding the appointment to help reduce discomfort and facilitate easier removal of earwax.

Regular use of olive oil may depend upon the type and nature of wax production and if your ears are itchy and in need of some extra lubrication. Personally, we recommend Earol olive oil spray for general softening and Miracell ProEar for itchy and irritated ears.

All of these products can be found in our online shop.

2. Call NHS 111:

Should you be experiencing extreme difficulty from earwax occlusion affecting your hearing, balance, tinnitus or have a suspected infection please contact your GP or NHS 111 services for further advice. 

3. Let us contact you once we reopen:

We are currently compiling a list of interested parties wishing to book earwax removal with one of our clinicians once the lockdown restrictions have been lifted. To submit an enquiry, please get in contact with us.