Earwax Removal

Excessive, impacted ear wax can diminish hearing and cause hearing aids to malfunction.

In most cases, earwax falls out on its own and there is no need to remove it. However, if earwax is completely blocking your ear canal and causing hearing loss, it may need removing.

Earwax also sometimes needs to be removed to make an impression of the ear canal for a hearing aid mould, or if the earwax is causing the hearing aid to whistle.

Treatment usually starts with eardrops to soften the earwax. However, if eardrops do not work, a process called ear irrigation may be needed.


Your GP or a hearing specialist may prescribe eardrops to soften the earwax and make it easier to remove.

Eardrops should only be used when they are at room temperature. Pour a few drops into the affected ear and lie on your side for a few minutes with the affected ear facing upwards.

This will allow the eardrops to soak into the wax and soften it. Repeating this two or three times a day for three to five days will cause the plug to soften. It may then gradually fall out of your ear bit by bit.

Eardrops should not be used if you have a perforated eardrum.

Ear irrigation

Ear irrigation may be recommended if your earwax blockage persists, even after using eardrops. It involves using a pressurised flow of water to remove the build-up of earwax.

An electronic ear irrigator is used, rather than a metal syringe as happened in the past, to avoid damaging the ear. The irrigator has a variable pressure control so that syringing can begin at the minimum pressure.

During the procedure, a controlled flow of water will be squirted into your ear canal to clean out the earwax. The water is a similar temperature to your body.

While irrigating your ear, the healthcare professional treating you may hold your ear at different angles to ensure that the water reaches all of your ear canal.

They may also look inside your ear several times using an auriscope (an instrument designed to examine the inside of the ear) to check whether the wax is coming out.

Ear irrigation is a painless procedure, but your ear may feel strange as the water is squirted around your ear canal.

If your earwax cannot be removed using eardrops and ear irrigation, or if you are unsuitable for these treatments, alternative options may be considered. These include:

  • microsuction: this advanced practice, employed very often by ENT surgeons, uses gentle suction under a microscope andis regarded as the safest method of wax removal.
  • aural toilet: where a specialist uses an instrument called a Jobson Horne probe to manually remove the earwax

Some AIHHP members offer a wax removal service – please go to the ‘find an AIHHP Hearing Centre’ to find out more from your local AIHHP member.