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Ear problems

Ear wax build up

Ear wax is a normal, oily substance that is antibacterial and helps to protect and clean your ears. It usually comes out of your ears by itself, helped by the movement of your jaw.

But sometimes wax can build up in the ears can cause discomfort and ear problems.

You might need ear wax removing if you have any of the following:

  • hearing loss
  • earache
  • tinnitus
  • itchiness
  • vertigo (a spinning sensation) thought to be caused by a wax blockage.

You may also need ear wax removing if it’s affecting how your hearing aids work, or if it’s blocking your ear canal and stopping a specialist from:

  • examining your ear
  • carrying out hearing tests
  • taking impressions of your ear canal for hearing aid ear moulds.

How ear wax build up can affect your hearing aids

If you wear hearing aids, ear wax can affect how they work. Significant amounts of ear wax can cause hearing aids to ‘whistle’. This will usually stop when the ear wax is removed.

Ear wax can also stop your hearing aids from working properly if it enters the tube or receiver. If this happens, you may have to clean your hearing aids more frequently.

How ear wax build up can cause tinnitus

Some people experience tinnitus if they have a build up of ear wax. This often happens if the wax causes a temporary hearing loss. Once the ear wax is removed, tinnitus symptoms will usually go away.

If you are concerned about tinnitus, it’s best to contact your GP.

Read more about tinnitus

What to do if you need ear wax removing during the coronavirus outbreak

If you think you have a build-up of ear wax, you can contact your GP to see if they are able to help you.

However, not all GP practices remove ear wax. And as doctors and nurses are very busy with the coronavirus outbreak, you may not get an appointment.

Availability of wax removal appointments

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a number of face-to-face appointments and services being cancelled. We know for some of our supporters this includes wax removal.

We’ve been in touch with the Department of Health and Social Care to ask for more clarity on the availability of ear wax removal.

Ear wax removal with private providers

There are some private and high street providers offering wax removal at a cost. If you do decide to have wax removed this way, ensure the professional you see is suitably qualified and uses a safe method of removal such as microsuction (using a very small suction device to gently remove ear wax).

Using olive oil to soften ear wax

You can use olive oil to soften your ear wax, which will help it fall out of your ear. The NHS recommends using 2 to 3 drops of olive oil in your ear twice a day for a few days. 

You should lie on your side with the ear with wax facing up, and stay there for 5–10 minutes after putting in the olive oil. You can wipe away any oil that drips out of your ear when you sit up.

The ear wax should fall out of your ear over the next two weeks. This will usually happen when you’re lying down.

Don’t try to remove ear wax from your ears

You should never try to remove ear wax from your own ears.  Only let a trained professional remove it for you.

Don’t push cotton buds, fingers or anything else into your ears. This could push wax deep into your ear, or damage your ear drum.

We know that there are some devices advertised online which claim to remove wax. There is no evidence that they are safe and they could cause damage to the ear if used.

Read more about ear wax build up on the NHS website.