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Ear Canal Irrigation

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 15 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Irrigation Treatment Hardened Ear Wax

Although ear wax has its use – it is a means of providing ear canal protection that traps anything foreign that flies or is blown into the ear canal – excessive wax can create a blockage that affects hearing and balance and can cause other health conditions. Ear canal irrigation removes wax build-up that has hardened and may be difficult to release using other more natural methods.

What is Ear Canal Irrigation?

Irrigation of the ear canal is a cleansing procedure that releases ear wax that may have hardened. A physician may initially attempt to remove wax by using a curette – a small metal ring shaped instrument – but if this fails irrigation of the ears by squirting warm water will be suggested.

The removal of hardened wax, from the ears, is a painful procedure. By using warm water pressure discomfort can be reduced slightly, although ear canal irrigation will still be unpleasant to some degree.

Ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists may prefer to irrigate ears by using an operating microscope to firstly assess the best potential procedure. They will then use a variety of tools to achieve the best results.

Alternative Irrigation Methods

Ear wax removal systems that are bought over the counter are available for self-use. The irrigation solution contains hydrogen peroxide, or a similar chemical, and can provide an easy-to-use and effective method of wax removal. If the ear wax has hardened however, the blockage may need to be removed by a specialist. It is also important to consider that using a home treatment method may result in the trapping of peroxide between the ear drum and compacted wax.

A homemade vinegar-water-peroxide solution, that has been warmed, can be applied to the ear canal to ease the removal of wax. If the wax requires softening before the application of a home irrigation solution, a drop of baby oil will help lubricate the ear canal and help to soften painful hardened ear wax. Home irrigation solutions however, should be avoided if you have a history of wax build-up conditions and/or middle ear problems.

Ear Candling

Ear candling treatments also provide an effective method of removing ear wax build-up. A tapered candle is placed in the ear and lit. As the candle burns, for around 10 minutes, the candle flame creates a vacuum at the opposite end of the candle and this sucks up the wax into the candle chimney. When the candle is removed from the ear canal the end will be dark in colour. As a precaution ear candling should only be carried out by a trained therapist, as hot wax can easily burn the outer ear if not handled with care and caution.

Complications After Irrigation

Mild discomfort will be experienced by most patients, at some time, during ear canal irrigation. After the procedure some individuals may experience short-term vertigo. The irrigation suction tip used may initially affect hearing as there is a lot of noise generated during the treatment.

In some cases minor laceration to the ear canal skin may be present due to the application of the equipment used in the removal of hardened ear wax. If this occurs it is important to seek advice regarding treatment of the condition.

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