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What is Ear Wax Flushing?

Procedures involving the ear canal can be dangerous if done by someone who doesn't know what they're doing.
Many people experience better hearing following an ear wax flushing.
Cotton swabs should not be used to remove ear wax.
Ear wax helps to protect the ear from infection.
People with excessive ear wax buildup may need to see a doctor.
Warm water can be used to loosen ear wax during a flushing procedure.
A washcloth may be used to remove excessive ear wax.
Special drops can be used to break up ear wax.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 27 June 2015
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Ear wax flushing is a method for removing impacted ear wax to make people feel more comfortable and improve hearing. It can be performed by a doctor in a clinic or done at home, with care, by patients who have been instructed in how to perform an ear wax flushing. It is important to be aware that procedures involving the ear canal can be dangerous for people who do not know what they are doing; a jet of water could damage the ear drum, for example, or someone could actually push ear wax further into the ear.

In a basic ear wax flushing, warm water can be used to loosen ear wax and then irrigate the ear to get it out. Sometimes, a chemical solution may be added if the wax buildup is very dry, hard, or large. Saltwater may be used because it is gentle on the ear. The temperature is carefully adjusted for comfort to avoid burning the inside of the ear or shocking it with too much heat. Typically, a bulb syringe is used for the process, as it offers a high level of control as well as gentle direction of the water.

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The patient usually lies with the head on a surface like a table. A towel is spread underneath, as the process can be messy. Fluid will be gently syringed into the ear and may be allowed to sit briefly to loosen up the ear wax before the patient's head is tilted to allow it to pour out. Several flushes of clean water can be used to totally clear the ear, and the bulb syringe can be used to gently suck up water from inside the ear. The patient's head is tilted again to allow the water to drain, and the ear can be dried with a hair dryer on a low setting to make sure the water is eliminated.

Patients should be able to hear much more easily and comfortably after an ear wax flushing. Buildups of ear wax can happen for a variety of reasons, ranging from natural overproduction of wax to responses to irritation. Once the ear is cleaned, the patient can be provided with information on keeping the ear clean, including only using ear swabs around the outside of the ear, allowing wax within the ear canal to naturally push its way out.

Potential risks of an ear wax flushing can include damage to the ear caused by pushing a syringe too far into the ear, using a strong jet of water, or using water that is too hot or cold. Leaving water in the ear can also cause complications, as it can tend to facilitate inflammation and infection. Patients who have been dealing with excessive ear wax for a long time may also feel a little disoriented after their ears are clear.

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anon989703
Post 6

I took my 13 month old baby girl to doctor yesterday and the nurse used a syringe and forced water into her ears and then afterward her ear started bleeding. The doctor says the nurse did not do anything wrong, but the doctor is referring her to an ear, nose and throat doctor to make sure no hearing loss happened!

SteamLouis
Post 5

My four year old had to have ear wax cleaned yesterday. When his doctor said that he has a lot, I didn't really believe it. But I saw all that came out and I was shocked! He had so much wax in there! He said he feels much better now. It's unbelievable how even small children can experience this problem.

donasmrs
Post 4

@literally45-- I agree with you that everyone does not need ear wax flushing. Most of us who clean regularly with cotton swabs are probably okay. Showering regularly and swimming in the ocean are also great ways to keep the ears clean.

Bu it's also true that some people suffer from chronic ear wax and do have to have it removed professionally by a doctor. And I think the issue can be worse with age. My dad for example has to get ear wax flushing regularly or he can't hear too well from the build-up.

By the way, has anyone here heard of ear candling or has anyone tried it? Does it help remove ear wax?

literally45
Post 3

I asked my doctor about ear wax flushing and he felt that it wasn't necessary for me. He said that this method can push wax further into the ear. Apparently, the ear cleans itself fairly well without any treatment being necessary. I guess ear wax flushing is only necessary for more serious cases where the wax has built-up a lot and the ear can't eliminate it on its own.

Inaventu
Post 2

I like to use an at-home ear wax removal kit at least once a year to make sure my ears are clean. Maybe a doctor would say that's too often, but I went through a painful impacted ear wax removal procedure when I was a kid and I don't want a repeat of that experience. I'm a little fanatical about keeping my ears clean in general these days.

The thing I would warn people about is using a hair dryer to dry up any remaining water after an ear wax cleaning. Even if the dryer is set on low, it can still be hot enough to cause a first or second degree burn if you're not careful. I once

did an ear wax treatment and felt like there was water still trapped in my ear canal. I used a hair dryer set on low to draw it out, but I put it too close to my outer ear and got several painful blisters.
RocketLanch8
Post 1

I don't know why I generate so much ear wax, but every so often I need to see my doctor for an ear wax removal treatment. I tried to do it at home one time, using an ear wax remover kit, but the job was way too messy. My ENT doctor has some chemical softeners that work better than warm water or whatever is in the home kit. I can feel it working as soon as he puts in the drops.

The only part of the ear wax flushing that bothers me is when he uses the syringe to wash out the wax and solution. It sounds really loud in my ear, and feels like a gallon of water is spilling out of my head. He uses a suctioning device to remove any remaining water or wax. My hearing is ten times better once he gets done.

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