Ear Irrigation – What You Need To Know

Ear wax is a normal body secretion, providing protection against infection and dust particles.

The ear is self-cleaning, and wax works its way out naturally.

Never use cotton wool buds to clean inside your ears, they irritate the delicate skin inside the ear canal, also pushes wax back into the ear compacting it.

Prior to having your ear irrigation you need to complete the following for a minimum of 7 nights prior to your appointment:

  • Lie down with affected ear uppermost.
  • Using a dropper/pipette, instill 2-3 drops (up to 5 ml) of pharmacy grade olive oil (not from kitchen) at room temperature into the ear canal.
  • Remain lying down for 5-10 minutes. It’s ideal to instill olive oil on affected ear at night then lay/sleep on unaffected ear. If putting olive oil in both ears, you may find it easier to do alternate ears on alternate nights.
  • Repeat this procedure daily for at least 7 nights prior to ear irrigation appointment.

Ear Irrigation is not risk free

It will only be carried out if the ear is completely blocked with wax.

Only one ear will be treated at a time.

Irrigation is not recommended within 2 weeks of flying

Partial blockage of the ear only requires irrigation if you wear a hearing aid and/or need a special examination.

Ear Irrigation can cause damage to the ear

From infection, acute and chronic tinnitus (ringing in the ears), to possible perforation of the ear drum and deafness.

If you ever had surgery to your ears or had a perforated ear drum, you must tell us before the procedure.

To minimise risk of injury, the wax must be softened with ear drops for at least 7 days. Olive oil drops are well tolerated in most people. The drops should be used twice a day.

Ear Irrigation

An electronic ear irrigator is used; it involves a pressurised flow of warm water that removes the build-up of earwax. The irrigator has variable pressure control so that irrigation can be performed at the minimum pressure. A controlled flow of warm water will be squirted into your ear canal to flush out the earwax. Ear irrigation should be a painless procedure,

Tell the person who is treating you immediately if you have any:

Symptoms such as these may be the result of an ear infection and will need further investigation.

If ear irrigation is unsuccessful at removing earwax from your ear, we may recommend:

  • Using eardrops again and returning for further irrigation.
  • That you be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist to remove the earwax.

Ear irrigation is not suitable for everyone  and will  never be done for the following reasons:

  • Patient has previously experienced complications following this procedure in the past
  • History of middle ear infection in the last 6-8 weeks
  • Patient has undergone any form of ear surgery (apart from grommets that have extruded at least 18 months previously and it is documented subsequently that the tympanic membrane is intact) in the last 18 months
  • Patient has a perforation (hole) of the eardrum
  • History of a mucous discharge
  • Patient has a cleft palate (repaired or not)
  • There is evidence of acute otitis externa (infection of ear canal) with pain & tenderness of the pinna
  • Total hearing loss in the other ear

You should not have ear irrigation if the ear to be treated is your only hearing ear.This is because there is a small chance it could cause permanent hearing loss.