Auckland Ear Wax Removal & Cleaning
Why do we have ear wax?
Our ear canals have specialised cells that produce cerumen, commonly known as ear wax. Ear wax is our natural ear cleaner; it also lubricates our ears and has an antibacterial function. The skin on our bodies is replaced and continuously regenerated. For most of our bodies, the old skin comes off on our clothes or when we dry ourselves with a towel.
We can not reach the skin in our ear canals, so it is the job or the ear wax to escort the old skin cells out of our ear canals and away. The skin in your ear canal naturally grows in an outward, spiral pattern. Your natural jaw movement, like talking and chewing, keep the process moving. Dead skin cells stick to the wax, and they migrate slowly and continuously from deep in our ear canal – near the eardrum – to the entrance of the ear. For most people, ear wax clears by itself with a regular face and hair washing.
Some people have ear wax accumulation over time. They may have a narrow or bendy ear canal, or their natural wax extraction system may not be working so well. Using cotton buds can disrupt the natural ear wax migration and even push the wax further down your ear canal. Also sometimes using hearing aids or earplugs may stop the wax migrating out of your ear canal and this can cause wax build-up.
Ear wax removal- how we do it
Your Audiologist will offer you safe removal of ear wax or other debris blocking the ear canal using a head light and gentle micro-suction. Suctioning is less traumatic than syringing and has a lower risk of infection.
At Auckland Hearing, Maree O’Sullivan the Audiologist does wax removal. Being able to have the wax removed at Auckland Hearing means we can continue the appointment if we discover wax in your ear canals. We no longer have to send you off to have this done then rebook your appointment, as we had to do in the past. We have a full set up for clearing wax and we use suction to gently remove it. An advantage of seeing Maree is that if she discovers the wax occlusion is not the cause of discomfort we will investigate further using video otoscopy, immittance testing (cheching your middle ear fuction) or hearing assessment if needed (see below for more details).
Reasons you may need wax removed
The wax is affecting your hearing
If wax builds up enough, it can stop sound from reaching your ear-drum. In some cases, your hearing will block and unblock (if there is a little gap around the edge and sound can get past). In this case, do not use cotton buds to try and get it out as you may push the wax down on to your eardrum. If this happens, it is uncomfortable and can be more tricky to remove, pushing wax down may also damage your eardrum.
Your ear feels uncomfortable
Wax accumulation can cause your ear to feel blocked, itchy, full or generally uncomfortable. An ear infection in your ear canal can also cause these symptoms. If we discover an ear infection, we will suction out any debris in the ear canal and recommend you see your GP for further management.
You are having a hearing test
Your ear canals must be clear of wax before we do a hearing assessment. A wax blockage may affect the result of a hearing test because we are trying to find out the very quietest sounds you can hear. Even if there is only a partial blockage, we may still need to remove the ear wax. This is because we use insert earphones to test your hearing. Insert earphones go deep down into your ear canal, and we want to avoid pushing wax deeper into your ear canal towards your eardrum. The wax can also block the sound coming out of the earphone, creating a false hearing measurement.
Before testing your hearing at Auckland Hearing, we will look in your ears to check your ear canals and eardrums are healthy and free of wax. If we notice wax in your ear canals, we will remove it before beginning the hearing test. We will this during your appointment.
You wear hearing aids
When you wear hearing aids, a partial wax blockage may affect the way the hearing aids work. They can affect the quality of your hearing aid use in several ways:
- Block up your hearing aids – The wax may block the outlet where the sound comes out, stopping the hearing aids form making any sound.
- Stop the sound from reaching your eardrum – A full blockage in the canal will stop sound from reaching your ear dum and reduce the clarity of your hearing aids.
- Cause your hearing aids to whistle – A blockage can also cause the hearing aids to whistle (acoustic feedback). Acoustic feedback happens when sound bounces off the wax in your ear canal and out of your ear. If it gets back into the microphones of the hearing aids, this causes the hearing aids to make a whistling sound (feedback).
- Causes discomfort – wax in your ear canal can stop your hearing aids from sitting correctly in your ear canal. It can cause itchiness and discomfort.
Before your wax removal appointment
People are often tempted to use cotton buds or other items to clear their ears. Putting items down your ear canal can push the wax further down the canal, further impacting the wax or may even push it onto the eardrum – which is very uncomfortable. It is also possible to puncture the eardrum, which is very painful and can have long-lasting effects. Please do not poke a cotton bud or anything else into your ear canal as it may push it towards your eardrum; and please do not use wax drops. In some cases drops can melt the wax down onto your eardrum which can affect your hearing and make the wax more challenging to remove.
What if taking the wax out does not improve my hearing?
A wax blockage can cause hearing loss because it can act as an earplug and stopping sound passing through your ear canal to your eardrum. It can also some times be pushed down onto the eardrum which is painful and can cause a more significant hearing loss. Often taking the wax out, will help you to hear better, especially if you have noticed your ear feels blocked. However, if there was a gap through the wax to the eardrum, there may be no change to your hearing after the wax is taken out.
If you feel your hearing has not improved after having the wax removed we will screen your hearing to check if there is hearing loss. You may then decide to do a full diagnostic hearing test which will help us understand the cause of the hearing loss and we can let you know what to do next.
Other testing- if needed
If we discover your ear canals are clear when you come to your appointment, we can do further assessment depending on the reason you made the appointment.
- If your ear feels blocked, but there is no wax, we will do a tympanogram to find out if you have fluid behind your eardrum.
- If your ears are clear and you are symptom-free, we will show you what your healthy ear canal and eardrum looks like using a video otoscope. The reassure you that your ears are doing an excellent job of cleaning themselves as they do for most people.
- If your ear canals are clear but look sore and irritated, the most common reason for this is due to putting items into the canal. We will show you what your ear canal, and eardrum looks like using a video otoscope, then recommend letting your ear canal heal by avoiding putting items into your canals. Using cotton buds and other opbjects to “clean you ears” can be a hard habit to break, however once you stop and let them heal by building up a healthy layer of protective wax, your ear canals will be more comfortable. Here is some more information about managing itchy ears.
What if all of the wax in my ear can not be removed at the first appointment?
Impacted wax may occur when the wax in your ears has been there for a long time or it has been pushed down onto your eardrum (with a cotton bud or other item). The wax which may have been moist when it originally touched your eardrum has dried out and is stuck. No amount of effort will be able to remove with wax at the first appointment. We can usually remove most of the wax in the ear canal but may be unable to remove the wax deep in your ear, which is adhered to your eardrum.
What we do if we find impacted wax
We will ask you to go home and for the next few days to put olive oil down your ear canal then lie on your side to let the olive oil get right down to your eardrum. The olive oil will get between the wax and your ear canal or eardrum and the wax will come away. We can then see you again in the clinic to take the wax out.
Thank you very much for seeing me today. What a relief to be able to hear again. Your reception, service and care was awesome and I so much appreciated it. You made me smile again after a miserable weekend and previous days.