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Ear Irrigation – What You Need To Know

- Written By

Brenda Galloway , ABMS

Updated on

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts. Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument. This article contains scientific references. Read more about our process.

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Earwax (cerumen) buildup is softened and removed via ear irrigation. Depending on your health, It may be done at home or necessitate a trip to the doctor.

A natural biological fluid called earwax is a barrier against water and debris and protects the ears from infection. Earwax typically leaves the ear naturally, but under some conditions, it can accumulate and cause pain, a feeling of ear fullness, itching, and hearing issues. According to estimates, earwax buildup (cerumen impaction) affects 10% of children, 5% of healthy adults, and up to 57% of residents of nursing homes.

A Guide to Ear Irrigation

The gentle removal of earwax buildup or debris from the ear canal is the goal of the frequent medical practice known as ear irrigation. It’s a risk-free and efficient way to keep your ears healthy and get your hearing back to normal.

The Importance of Ear Irrigation

Uncomfortable symptoms, lowered hearing, and even disorientation can result from excessive earwax. For the best ear health, ear irrigation is a crucial weapon in the fight against this accumulation.

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Justifications for Ear Irrigation

When a healthcare professional determines that cerumen impaction is present, irrigation is typically performed. A medical professional may suggest ear irrigation if earwax buildup prevents them from seeing the tympanic membrane (ear drum).

One method for removing earwax from the ear canal is irrigation. 

It can be carried out at home or by a healthcare professional using body-temperature water. Complications, such as dizziness or ear canal injury, may occur if the water temperature is excessively cold or too hot.

The medical professional injects water into the ear canal using a syringe during ear irrigation. The syringe tip must not go into the ear canal, it should be noted. Numerous professional ear irrigation kits may be used at home. However, no proof exists that commercial equipment performs better than the syringe method at removing a cerumen impaction.

How Ear Irrigation Operates

1) Evaluation and Inspection

A medical practitioner will adequately examine your ears before ear irrigation is started.

Visual inspection or the use of specialized equipment like otoscopes may be required.

2) Preparation 

The first step in ear irrigation is to soften earwax using over-the-counter ear drops or a prescription-only solution. The wax can be removed more easily by softening it.

3) Watering

Warm water is softly sprayed into the ear canal during the operation using a specialized syringe or irrigation tool. The softened earwax is forced out of the ear canal by the water.

4) Restrained and Mild

It’s crucial to remember that ear irrigation should only ever be carried out by qualified experts. The operation calls for a careful touch to prevent harming sensitive ear structures.

What Situations Call for Ear Irrigation?

When earwax buildup results in discomfort, diminished hearing, or other related problems, ear irrigation becomes necessary. A medical professional will determine your suitability for the procedure.

The Advantages of Professional Care

A professional ear irrigation procedure has the following benefits:

Professionals with healthcare training provide safe and efficient wax removal.

Professionals customize the process based on each patient’s demands and ear problems.

Safety: Experts employ specialized equipment and methods to reduce the danger of injury.

Evaluation: Experts can spot underlying problems that may need more care.

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Complications and Risks

The act of irrigation might come with significant risks. The most typical dangers include:

dizziness, especially if the water is not at a temperature that is close to that of the body

a puncture or tear in the tympanic membrane that could harm the middle ear

Otitis externa, or an external ear infection

  • When specific medical issues are present, cerumen removal should be done with caution: Immunosuppressive diseases, such as diabetes or human immunodeficiency virus) or a history of transplants because of the risk of infection.
  • Anticoagulation or blood-thinning drug users are more likely to bleed or develop hematomas.
  • Irrigation might be complex outside of a medical context due to irregularities in the ear anatomy, such as ear canal narrowing or scarring.
  • If you attempt ear irrigation at home, avoid utilizing a jet or pressurized device. Only licensed healthcare professionals should use these gadgets since they can harm your ear.

Other difficulties

Additional difficulties may arise in rare circumstances. These include vertigo, a condition where you feel like the room is spinning around you.

either temporary or permanent deafness

Consult a physician if your symptoms don’t go away following at-home care because earwax buildup can be dangerous over time or the result of other medical disorders. 

They may try different approaches or refer you to an ear expert. Earwax buildup is more common in those who wear hearing aids. Cotton-tipped swabs should also not be used to clean the ear canal because they have a reputation for pushing wax into the eardrum and ear canal.

Side effects of ear irrigation

Many patients who use ear irrigation report a variety of adverse side effects. Although usually not as severe as the abovementioned issues, some side effects can be unpleasant.

Ear irrigation frequently causes momentary disorientation, ear canal discomfort or pain, tinnitus, or ear ringing.

Most side effects are transient and disappear within a day. Make an appointment to visit your doctor if you feel pain or discomfort that worsens rather than improves or have other symptoms. Make an appointment to see them immediately if you have extreme discomfort in case of an eardrum perforation or further ear injury.

Homemade vs. Professional

Although DIY ear irrigation products are offered, there are dangers. Attempting ear irrigation at home without the proper training and tools can result in complications like ear infections, eardrum perforation, or pushing the wax deeper into the ear canal.

Achieving the Best Results

It’s crucial to adhere to the post-procedure recommendations given by the healthcare provider after ear irrigation. This can entail limiting time spent in the water and, if required, utilizing ear drops that have been recommended.

the bottom line

A crucial aid in preserving ear health is ear irrigation, a practice that relieves pain and improves hearing. Professional supervision ensures the operation is carried out effectively and safely, reducing risks and maximizing benefits. The first step towards cleaner, healthier ears is to consult a healthcare paraprofessional for an accurate assessment and recommendations if you suffer discomfort or diminished hearing due to earwax buildup.

How we reviewed this article

Trend Of Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy



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