Ear Nose and Throat Problems

Ear Wax Management

In line with other practices locally and nationally, the team at Unity Health has taken the decision to cease offering ear irrigation at the practice. We have produced this information to help patients to self-care. There are a number of reasons for this decision:

  • Increased demands on our services
  • Difficulty purchasing the equipment required
  • Challenges recruiting into our nursing team

It is also a service that we are not commissioned to provide.  We have done so for many years, but feel that the time has come to cease unfunded work in order to concentrate on providing other services that form part of our core NHS contract.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, but we are sure that you will appreciate that we need appointments for things that are specified within the ‘core contract of services’ that we have to provide.

We will continue to offer an assessment service and where it is not possible to solve the issue with the advice given in this leaflet, we are able to refer patients to the hospital.

When to consult with a GP or advanced Practitioner

If you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Discharge or bleeding from the ear
  • Sudden deafness
  • Dizziness
  • Foreign bodies (you may be advised to attend A&E)

What you can do to Manage the Problem

If you are not experiencing any of the symptoms above, Olive Oil Drops/Spray are recommended 2-3 times daily for at least 7 day

  1.   Lie on your side with the affected ear uppermost
  2.   Pull the outer ear gently backwards and upwards to straighten the ear canal
  3.   Put 2-3 drops of olive oil into the affected ear(s) and gently massage just in front of  the ear
  4.   Stay lying on your side for 10 minutes to allow the wax to soak up the oil
  5.   Afterwards, wipe away any excess oil, but do not plug your ear with cotton wool as this simply absorbs the oil
  6.   Your hearing problem may initially worsen after first starting to use the olive oil drops. This is why you are advised to concentrate on treating one ear at a time if both ears are blocked with wax.
  7.   In most cases, the wax will have softened sufficiently to encourage the wax to come out without further intervention.
  8.   However, if you feel your hearing is still impaired, please make an appointment with the practice nurse for further advice and management.

Ear Wax

  • Ear wax is normal and it provides protection for your ears.
  • Your ears are self-cleaning
  • The movement of your jaw while eating and talking moves the wax along the canal
  • Ear wax only becomes a problem if it causes deafness, pain or if a health professional needs a clear view of the ear drum

What makes wax Worse?

  • The amount of wax produced varies from person to person
  • Some people produce excessive amounts of wax and this can block the ear canal
  • Wearing a hearing aid, ear plugs or headphones can interfere with wax expulsion
  • Narrow or hairy ear canals if you are elderly – the wax produced may be harder and drier
  • Dry skin in people who suffer with eczema or psoriasis

What shouldn’t you do – Some suggestions

  • Do not use cotton buds or clean the ear. This forces wax deeper into the canal and can cause damage, trauma and possible infection
  • Do not use objects such as matches, hair grips, crochet hooks, knitting needles, keys etc. this can cause trauma and possible infection
  • If your ears are itchy, do not scratch or rub them with your finger nails or any other objects
  • Do not use anything smaller than your elbow in your ear!

What Helps?

  • Try and keep your ears dry. When washing your hair, showering or swimming, putting some Vaseline around the inner part of your ear can help
  • Don’t put your head under the water when bathing
  • If you regularly get blocked ears, use olive oil drops weekly


There are a number of over-the-counter kits available from pharmacies.  These contain a wax softener as drops, which you use for 3-4 days and a small bulb syringe to enable you to remove the wax from your ear canals yourself.

Patients are advised that there is very little clinical based research available on self-irrigation.  Care needs to be taken to ensure there is no trauma or infection as a result of self-irrigation.

For further advice, please speak to your practice nurse.

Ear Suction

This is one of the safest and quickest methods of ear wax removal.  It is available on a private basis and there are a number of audiologists who offer this service locally. 

Ongoing Self-Care

If your ears are regularly becoming blocked with wax, after clearing the blockage, it is suggested that you use olive oil drops around once a week to keep the wax soft and encourage the natural process of wax expulsion.