Posted by Rosie Dooley, BSc (Hons) Audiology, RHAD on July 20, 2019
Water irrigation is an ear wax removal service that we are proud to offer at all our Hear4U branches and in the comfort of your own home if needed. Having your ears cleared with water irrigation can often instantly relieve the symptoms caused by occluding ear wax.
Water irrigation is the method of wax removal mostly used by primary health care facilities – though, in the last couple of years, funding for this is service in GP surgeries is slowly being withdrawn. Based upon traditional ear syringing, water irrigation consists of a jet of water being used to flush wax, debris or foreign bodies out of the ear canal. It can be performed by any trained healthcare or hearing care professional.
At Hear4U the Audiologist or nurse will begin your appointment by going through your medical and consent form and discussing any wax removal history. Your ears will then be checked with an otoscope and you will be shown your ear canals on the TV screen with a video otoscope (only if you want to see. Some people prefer to see inside only once the ears have been cleared!).
The procedure will then be explained to you and so that you do not get wet a towel will be placed over your shoulder and you will be asked to hold a cup against your jaw under your ear to catch the water flushing from the ear canal. Once the canal has been cleared, the audiologist will dry your ear with cotton wool and show you your ear canal on the screen. You will be taken through how to look after your ears after water irrigation. The procedure is allotted 30 minutes but the time taken to clear your ears will depend on how blocked your ears are and how soft the wax or debris is.
We advise using olive oil drops for the three days prior to your wax removal appointment to help soften the wax. If you are desperate and able to get a same-day appointment however, oiling is not always necessary, and the Audiologist or nurse may be able to remove the wax anyway. Softening the wax does increase the likelihood of total removal on the first appointment, however, if the wax cannot be removed in full a second appointment is booked at no extra charge.
Over the counter drops such as Otex or Sodium Bicarbonate can offer some relief and soften the wax, however as the skin inside your ear canal is sensitive and can react very differently from person to person we do not recommend using anything other than olive oil before Water Irrigation.
It is important that you should keep your ears from getting wet for 7 days after you have had Water Irrigation. Place some cotton wool at the entrance of the ear canal before showering and do not submerge your head into the water. If you have had very large amounts of hard wax removed, you can experience a sore ear after the procedure – this will resolve in a few days and we would advise you not to put anything into your ear while it is settling. If you are experiencing prolonged moderate-severe pain, then you could have an underlying infection in which case we recommend you visit your GP or call us to check your ear.
There are a few reasons that your ears could still feel blocked after Water Irrigation. Firstly, having blocked ears for weeks/months can cause a lot of pressure to build up which will relieve once the blockage is removed, but occasionally it can take time for this pressure to disperse.
If you have a prolonged feeling of fullness, it may be that you have congestion behind the eardrum, in which case removing blockages from the canal will not ease the feeling of being full.
Hearing loss that is related to wear and tear typically begins with the loss of the higher frequencies of sound. This causes a muffled feeling or the lack of clarity of speech. It may be that even though some of your hearing has been restored after Water Irrigation has removed a blockage, you have an underlying hearing loss. You can speak to the Audiologist who conducted your wax removal appointment to find out more about this and they can offer you a hearing test.