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Please find our FAQs that will assist you or help you understand more about ear wax, symtoms of ear wax build up, irrigation procedure and lots more besides.  Any additional questions, please don't hesitate to email us at and add ECC or Ear Care Clinic in the subject line.

Earwax, or cerumen as it is medically known, is a natural substance produced by the ear canal of humans and many other mammals.

The exact function of earwax is disputed, but earwax probably plays a role in the hygiene and overall health of the outer ear. In most people the presence of earwax goes unnoticed and is non-problematic. In some people, however, the amount of earwax inside the ear canal can become excessive and the earwax becomes impacted.

This can be because:
  • The skin lining the ear canal no longer migrates outwards when it sheds. Without this ‘conveyor belt’ motion, the earwax becomes trapped inside the ear.

  • The anatomy of the ear canal does not lend itself to the migration of earwax, for example, because the ear canal is too narrow.

  • The inappropriate use of cotton/ear buds, or regular wearing of hearing aids and earplugs can push the earwax deep into the ear canal.

  • The glands on the skin lining the ear canal become hyperactive and secrete more earwax than normal.

  • The earwax is hard and dry (a common issue for older people) and therefore more likely to become impacted in the ear canal.

Left untreated, excessive and/or impacted earwax can lead to:

Hearing loss

A blocked sensation/occlusion: internal sounds such as chewing, breathing, your heartbeat and your voice can no longer escape out of the ear due to the earwax. They are therefore heard more loudly inside your head

Tinnitus: a ringing/whistling/buzzing sound that originates from inside your ear and is only heard by you

Vertigo: some people can experience vertigo (spinning dizziness), which improves with the removal of the earwax

Coughing: sometimes caused by irritation of the ear canal

Interference with hearing aid: sounds being amplified by the hearing aid are reflected back out of the ear by the earwax. This causes acoustic feedback (whistling) of the hearing aid. Earwax can also block hearing aid tubes

Itchiness/irritation: excess earwax can contribute to itchiness and irritation of the outer ear canal (otitis externa).

"If earwax is causing any of these problems, then its removal should result in an improvement.

It’s important to note that there may be other reasons for the issues above"


How do I treat earwax problems?

Earwax is not a problem for many people: it simply migrates out naturally and falls out of the ear. Often, there isn’t even any need to clean the ear with earbuds. In fact, using earbuds may even lead to earwax being pushed further into the ear canal and becoming impacted.


Water-based (bicarbonate) or oil-based (olive oil) eardrops can help soften or disperse earwax. Water-based drops can dissolve earwax, while oil-based ones tend to soften the ear wax so it can be removed. If you have an eardrum hole/perforation avoid oil-based drops. Some water-based drops should be avoided too. Bicarbonate eardrops are not known to be dangerous but may be uncomfortable if you have an eardrum perforation. They may also trigger an infection.

Ear Irrigation

Occasionally, water irrigation may be the only option to remove wax. However, it is generally not recommended for wax removal, particularly if you:

  • have a perforated ear drum or a very narrow ear canal

  • have had previous mastoid or middle ear surgery

  • are prone to ear infections

  • have had previous problems with ear syringing

  • have sensitivity in your ears

  • have moderate or severe tinnitus, which is made louder with noise exposure

I still have an ear problem after earwax removal.

What should I do?

There may be another reason besides earwax that is causing your ear to feel blocked. This may be due to problems behind the eardrum in the middle ear, such as fluid or glue ear. Your inner ear or hearing nerve may not be working properly. Please contact us or see your GP to have further investigations.

How often do I need to have my ears cleaned?

Most people’s ears clean themselves, but if your ear becomes blocked again, please get in touch and book your appointment with us.

What happens if I do not have my ears cleaned?

If earwax is not causing you any problems, then the best thing is to leave your ears alone. If earwax is causing problems such as blockage or hearing loss, and the problem doesn’t resolve itself, then it’s important to get it seen to

Your work Health Care Insurance

Morag Ross (ANP) is a registered member of the Nursing & Midwifery Council. If you have a work Health Care policy, this means you may be able to claim back all or part of your treatment. Every policy is different, so please check if you qualify and we can provide an Invoice to you which you will need to support your health insurance claim.

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