Ear wax is healthy in normal amounts and serves as a self-cleansing agent with protective, lubricating and antibacterial properties. For the majority, it does not cause any problems and falls out naturally. Various factors can effect ear wax production, such as diet, genetics, ageing and anatomy.
Problems that can be associated with wax accumulation can include:
- hearing loss
- ear pain
- odour or discharge
Microsuction is a wax removal technique using a precision, low pressure suction apparatus to gently and safely suck un-wanted or obstructing skin cells and wax from the external auditory meatus (ear canal). It avoids touching the sensitive area around the ear canal and evades contact with the eardrum.
We use our Tympahealth system which provides magnification so that the tip of the fine cannula (the suction tube) is always under direct vision.
This technique contrasts with ear syringing where high pressure water is squirted into the ear to dislodge the wax. Microsuction is a more precise and gentle technique than ear syringing.
Why is microsuction better?
Compared to traditional forms of wax removal – ear drops and irrigation or syringing, microsuction is:
- Cleaner and neater
- Generally better tolerated, with less side effects
- More effective and likely to need only one appointment
- Doesn’t need weeks of waiting for drops to soften the wax
- Microsuction may still be possible for people who struggle to use oil prior to treatment
What to expect from ear microsuction
Private ear wax clearance using microsuction, is provided by specially trained pharmacy teams who will talk you through the procedure, show you the equipment and ask you to sign a consent form before we start.
The microsuction process can be noisy and occasionally make you feel dizzy. This usually passes within a short while. If you are having the procedure undertaken on both ears, it will take up to 30 minutes.
How it works
Everything you need to know
Prior to the procedure
>It is important that you soften the ear wax by putting 1-2 sprays of olive oil (Earol) into the relevant ear/ears, twice daily, for three to five days prior to your appointment.
This is available to purchase at Earls Barton Pharmacy & Travel Clinic.
Please note that if you have not done this, and the wax is too hard to remove, you may still be charged for the procedure.
During the appointment
- A comprehensive medical history will be taken
- Microscopic examination of the inner ear canals and ear drums
- Gentle removal of the earwax with a surgical Microsuction unit. The Pharmacy team will use our Tympahealth system to exam your ear. There may be an occasional mild ‘pop’ as the wax is sucked through the probe. Generally, the appointment will be painless.
- Better hearing and healthy ears
Post treatment advice
Typically, no further action is required after the treatment and a patient can resume all normal activity immediately after the procedure.
- Consultation fee (no wax found/microsuction not needed): £15
- Ear Microsuction for both ears: £50
- You will be required to pay in full at the pharmacy immediately prior to the procedure taking place.
If we are unable to complete your treatment on your first visit, you may be offered a further appointment within 4 weeks of your initial consultation, free of charge. If we are unable to complete a successful procedure you will be returned to the care of your GP who can refer you for further specialist help.
If you cancel your appointment within 24 hours or do not attend, you may be charged in full.
Frequently asked questions:
Do I need a medical referral for microsuction?
Ear wax removal by microsuction is available on the NHS. You would need to arrange a referral through your GP, often to a local Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) hospital clinic. Depending on where you are, waiting times for ear wax removal by microsuction can range from weeks to months.
The alternative is our private service which is available in our locations at Oxgangs, Dunfermline & Glenrothes. We often have availability in the same week.
What is the difference between microsuction and syringing?
Syringing and irrigation use water to remove ear wax. The idea is that by squirting water past the wax blockage, the water pressure will build up behind the wax and push it out. As the ear is full of water during the flushing process, it is not possible to see what is happening. It could be argued that this method is counter intuitive as you want to get the wax out, but the high pressure water can potentially push the wax further into the ear canal.
Microsuction uses gentle medical suction accurately applied to the ear wax. The practitioner is able to look into the ear throughout the process to see that is happening and remove the ear wax with pinpoint accuracy. Because microsuction uses suction to draw the wax from the ear, it cannot puch wax further in and the success rate is therefore far greater than that of syringing or irrigation. Ear wax removal by microsuction is also considerably safer than syringing or irrigation.
Does microsuction hurt?
In nearly all cases, ear wax removal by microsuction does not hurt at all. It can be noisy, but not a lot more than a hand dryer or vacuum cleaner.
A recent ear infection or the use of some ear drops can make the skin of the ear canal more sensitive, and as a consequence, the procedure may be a little uncomfortable in these limited cases.
How successful is microsuction?
In the majority of cases, ear wax removal by microsuction will remove 100% of the ear wax. In some cases, only 90-95% of a blockage may be removed, but this would still be enough to fully or mostly restore hearing. In very few cases, hearing may not be restored or wax may remain due to it being hard on the edges or deep inside on the ear drum where it can not safely be removed. In such cases, continued use of olive oil ear drops for another 5-7 days should loosen the last piece and it usually comes out on its own.
Is microsuction safe?
Microsuction is considered to be the safest method of ear wax removal. However, all procedures have an element of risk.
It is important that you understand the risks involved. An individual’s choice to undergo a procedure is based on the comparison of the risk to potential benefit. Although the majority of patients do not experience these complications, you should discuss each of them with your practitioner to make sure you understand the risks, potential complications, and consequences of microsuction:
- Minor bleeding
- Mild discomfort
- Short-term ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
Will microsuction definitely restore my hearing?
While hearing loss can be due to blockage of the ear canal by ear wax, it is not the sole reason people experience temporary, sudden or prolonged, permanent hearing loss. Microsuction will remove the majority of ear wax, if not all, and so can only restore your hearing to whatever level it was at before you got an ear wax blockage.
How often should one have microsuction to remove ear wax?
This varies between individuals. Some develop a lot of wax in their canals with subsequent blockage as often as every 3-6 months. In patients with hearing aids, it is recommended to clear the ear canal every 4-6 months if there is a proneness to wax build-up. Microsuction can be carried out as often as necessary.
How long will my appointment be?
In most cases, the consultation and procedure is carried out within 20 minutes. However, we would always recommend allowing 30 minutes.
From what age can I have microsuction?
At our clinic, we will only treat those over 18 years old for ear wax removal by microsuction.