Earwax or cerumen is the oily yellow residue our bodies naturally produce to keep our ears clean, waterproof and germ-free.
Our ears are actually self-cleaning. The wax normally gathers up dead skin cells and dirt and this easily exits the ear canal. However, this isn’t always the case; sometimes too much earwax builds up and cannot be pushed out of the ear canal effectively. In most cases this stuck wax will harden into a ball that cannot be softened or removed at home. This is known as earwax compaction.
When this happens, it is common to experience persistent earaches, muffled hearing or the feeling of fullness in the ears. Southport Doctors recommend that you come in for professional ear cleaning at this stage, but do not fear as the procedure is fast and causes only minor discomfort.
There can be a number of causes of earwax compaction; one of the most surprising reasons being over-cleaning. If you use cotton swabs or ear-buds and even bobby pins or twisted napkin corners to try clear your ears, you may be able to remove some of the wax, but you could also push some of the wax deeper into your ear. Using rudimental tools like these also increases the risk of scratching your ear canal lining or even puncturing your eardrum.
An excessive build-up of earwax can cause a number of symptoms including:
- Earaches and pain
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Drainage or discharge that has an odour
- A feeling of fullness, like you are wearing earplugs
- Hearing loss
The ears are extremely delicate which is why we urge you to contact your doctor before trying to alleviate your symptoms on your own.
What happens at the appointment?
When you book in to have your ears cleaned professionally, one of our experienced doctors will first gather information on your health history and symptoms. Thereafter, they will examine your ear to determine if it is indeed earwax compaction or if there is anything else potentially going on.
In the event that your earwax build-up is not severe, the doctor may suggest the use of ear drops to soften the wax. You will be instructed on how to use them and advised to return to the surgery if the drops do not alleviate your symptoms.
There are a number of professional methods used to remove earwax. The doctor will determine which is most appropriate for you.
If the earwax is soft enough, ear irrigation may be an adequate solution. Using water pressure, the wax is dislodged without damaging the eardrum. Ear irrigation can be performed using a water pick or a bulb syringe which will propel water into the ear canal in an attempt to soften and dislodge any build-up. Though this process is usually painless, you may experience minor discomfort during and temporary dizziness afterwards.
Scraping is performed using either a curette or suction. This method is only used if there is no other option and should never be performed at home because of the potential risk of damaging your ears. Depending on how severe the build-up is and the shape of your ear, this process may cause minor discomfort.
Southport Doctors hope this information on just how simple earwax removal treatment at our practice can be will encourage you to contact us when the need arises. Call (07) 5531 3205 to book an appointment for professional ear cleaning today.