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Take action if NHS ear wax removal services aren’t available in your area

Many people in our community have told us that it’s difficult to access NHS ear wax removal services.

We’ve heard from lots of people who usually go to their GP for this service but have been told it’s no longer available on the NHS. These services were traditionally provided in GP surgeries. There are various reasons why this service might have been stopped in some GP practices, including concerns about safety.

Evidence shows that the traditional ‘syringing’ method of ear wax removal is unsafe and we agree that unsafe methods should not be used. However, there are other safe removal methods that can be used in GP practices. The COVID-19 pandemic has also meant that many face-to-face services have been paused, including wax removal in some areas.

Many people are now being advised to seek ear wax removal from private providers. The cost varies, but for some can be too expensive to be an option.

What you can do

If you have been unable to get ear wax removed at your GP surgery, we’d like to hear from you. Because this service varies across the UK, we want to see if there are regions where this is a particular problem or if it is happening more widely.

We’re mapping where this is an issue and it would really help us if you provided your postcode below to do this. We’ll use this information to map areas in which wax removal services are not being offered and we’ll store your postcode anonymously.

We’ve also created a template letter for you to send to your local MP asking them to take a stand to protect local services.

Write to your elected representative with our letter template

If you live in England

How to use our letter template

If you’ve been denied NHS ear wax removal services in England, we encourage you to write to your local MP and ask them to take action on your behalf.

MPs can lobby the local providers of healthcare, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and seek to influence relevant policies from the Department of Health and Social Care.

We’ve provided a suggested outline for a letter below. To make this as powerful as possible and encourage your MP to take action, it’s essential you outline the local problems that you’ve faced – so there’s a section where we suggest you write about:

  • your experience
  • what support you were denied by the NHS
  • how this affected you.

Make sure you also include your postcode in your letter so your MP knows that you are one of their constituents.

You can find your MP and their contact details by entering your postcode on the Members of Parliament website.

If you’re happy to do so, we’d be grateful if you could forward your email to our Campaigns Team at campaigns@rnid.org.uk, and let us know of any response you get from your MP. This information will help us determine the scale of the problem and understand which MPs are supportive.

Letter template

Dear [insert name of MP],

I am writing to ask for your support and advice on the provision of wax removal within our local NHS services.

I recently sought support at [insert name of GP surgery, community care service etc.] in [insert name of town] because of ear wax build-up but was told that our CCG no longer provides any support or a wax removal service.

[Here we would encourage you to outline your own experience and how not being able to access a wax removal service has affected you. It might be helpful to include:

  • What problems the wax caused you
  • The advice given by your GP as an alternative to wax removal
  • If you were referred to a private provider state how much the service would have cost you.]

The build-up of ear wax within the ear has a number of notable health implications. It can cause hearing loss, earache, tinnitus, itchiness, or even vertigo(a spinning sensation). It can also affect how hearing aids work, causing excessive whistling or stopping them from working altogether. Wherever this is the case, or where wax can prevent audiological procedures from being carried out, it is crucial that people are offered a removal service. This is set out quite clearly in the current NICE guidance which states that Commissioners should provide a service which would:

“Offer to remove earwax for adults in primary care or community ear care services if the earwax is contributing to hearing loss or other symptoms, or needs to be removed in order to examine the ear or take an impression of the ear canal.”

Without this service, people who experience wax build-up can be very negatively impacted. People who experience hearing loss as a result, or whose hearing aids are affected, can struggle to communicate which can be both distressing and isolating. Furthermore if hearing loss caused by wax goes unaddressed indefinitely, this can have severe negative effects on every aspect of life.

As I have been denied access to a wax removal service in primary or community care, could you please let me know what steps I should be taking, and what steps you will be taking, to rectify this problem?

For more information on the impact of wax and the importance of access to wax removal services please visit the RNID website, or get in touch with them to find out more. You can email campaigns@rnid.org.uk and they will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

I look forward to receiving your response.

Yours sincerely,

[insert your name].

If you live in Northern Ireland

Please let us know if this is an issue in your area by entering your postcode above.

We want to understand how this issue affects people in Northern Ireland – if you would like to tell us about your experience please email Rebekah McKinstry at rebekah.mckinstry@rnid.org.uk

If you live in Scotland

If you live in Scotland, please let us know if this is an issue in your area by entering your postcode above.

If you live in Wales

The Welsh Government recently announced that Health Boards will take steps to ensure wax removal services take place in primary care settings such as in GP surgeries.

We are still working to ensure that people across Wales are able to access NHS wax removal services in a consistent way.

Why this issue is important

It’s so important that people who need ear wax removal are able to access this service.

If left untreated, the associated symptoms of ear wax build up can lead to a greater risk of:

  • ear infections
  • social isolation
  • depression
  • in some cases, an increased risk of falling over.

People unable to have wax removed privately may attempt to remove it themselves. This has serious safety implications. The NICE guideline for hearing loss specifically advises against inserting small objects into your ear to remove wax.

We believe that ear wax removal should be provided as set out in the NICE guidelines, which state that providers should:

“Offer to remove ear wax for adults in primary care or community ear care services if the ear wax is contributing to hearing loss or other symptoms, or needs to be removed in order to examine the ear or take an impression of the ear canal.”

Read our information about ear wax build up.

Recent developments

There was a recent written Parliamentary Question on the provision of NHS ear wax removal, answered by Health Minister Edward Argar MP. This answer stated that ear wax removal is an enhanced service that CCGs and GP practices do not have to provide, instead they can choose to commission this service based on local need.

We were dismayed to see that the minister contradicted clinical evidence and national guidance by suggesting GPs refer those who are struggling with their hearing (due to ear wax) to audiology services for assessment and hearing aid fitting.

Not only is this advice clinically inappropriate, it will also lead to the waste of precious NHS resources. Many audiology departments do not have the facility to remove ear wax, and the core components of an audiology assessment cannot be carried out if someone has too much ear wax. This could result in wasted appointments while patients are sent away until the ear wax can be removed.

At a time where many audiology services are seeing increasing waiting lists due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more essential that these appointments are not wasted.

We’re seeking clarity on the disappointing response to this question, and we will update this page when we know more.