Ear Syringe / Ear Irrigation

If you go to a doctor in North America to have your ear canal cleared, he or she will most likely use an ear syringe to perform the task. Earwax, technically called cerumen, is generally a densely packed and sticky substance. It therefore needs to be softened before it can be extracted efficiently. Various commercial formulas of ear drops exist for this purpose, but plain olive oil has been shown to be generally as effective. A few drops are put into the blocked ear several times a day for 4-5 days. By the end of the irrigation period, the earwax will generally be soft enough to perform ear irrigation.

What is Ear Irrigation?

ear syringeEar irrigation is the flowing of warm water into the ear. Ideally, when the water flows out, it takes with it the softened earwax and any debris that was embedded in it. Doctors can perform this procedure using specialized syringes that navigate the curvature of the ear canal. Care needs to be taken to regulate the flow of water, so that it does not cause pain or injury. Additionally, the temperature of the water is very important. It should be warm water, at or very slightly above body temperature. Flowing colder or hotter water through the ears can cause extreme dizziness and disorientation.

Ear Drops at Home

Certainly, the ear drops can be self-administereds in order to prepare for ear irrigation. You can also attempt to do the irrigation itself on your own, but care must be taken with the temperature of the water and the flow, and also that the syringe is carefully positioned so that you do not cause yourself injury.

My Own Experience with Ear Syringing

I have performed many ear irrigations. Patients are often very worried and nervous about the insertion of the syringe into the ear canal. The real worry with this method, though, is its effectiveness. Often only a small amount of the wax buildup is softened enough that it flows out of the ear. The patient then can hear again, but in a couple of weeks is back again with the same problem.

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