Blocked ears (wax)

What is earwax?

Earwax is a natural secretion which forms a protective coating on the skin in the ear canal.  Wax is produced in the ear canal and helps protect our ears from infection.  It is gently pushed out of our ears by the action of migrating skin in our ears.  The skin grows from the eardrum, along the ear canal, and eventually falls out of our ears mixed with wax.  Ears are therefore self-cleaning and we should not be tempted to try and remove wax with cotton buds, as this can push the wax deep into the ear, damage the skin of the ear canal, and cause infections.

Some people have narrow ear canals, or wax that becomes dry, which prevents skin and wax falling out of their ears.  The quantity of earwax produced varies greatly from person to person.

A doctor or nurse can look into the ear canal and confirm a plug of earwax has formed. A plug of earwax is not a serious problem, more a nuisance.  You only need to remove earwax if wax build-up is causing symptoms such as dulled hearing or problems with a hearing aid.

How to remove earwax using ear drops

Earwax usually falls out on its own.  If it doesn’t and blocks your ear, to help with this natural process, and enable the ear to clean itself, we advise the use of medical grade certified Olive Oil drops to soften the wax.  Olive Oil bought from a Chemist does not contain any chemicals which may cause irritation.  Following this process up to two or three times a day, for two to three weeks should help.  This softens the wax so that it comes out of its own accord without harming the ear.  You will not necessarily see wax come out.  It often seems to come out unnoticed.  You can continue for any length of time, but three weeks is usually enough.  If olive oil does not work, you can buy sodium bicarbonate drops from pharmacies.

Step-by-step guide to administering ear drops

  • Warm the drops to room temperature before using them
  • Lie on your side with the affected ear facing up when putting in drops
  • Gently pull and push your outer ear to work the drops in, apply 1-2 drops
  • Gently massage the area in front of the ear
  • Stay lying down for 10 minutes to allow the drops to soak into the earwax
  • It is not advisable to put cotton wool in your ear/ears as this will soak up the eardrop

If olive oil does not work you can buy sodium bicarbonate drops from pharmacies.  As an alternative to Olive Oil, Sodium Bicarbonate is a medicated ear wax softener.  It also helps to dissolve ear wax.  It is not recommended for long term use as it can irritate the skin in the ear canal.  

To administer drops, follow this step-by-step guide