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What is Microsuction Ear Wax Removal?

Ear wax removal is an important tool in any Audiologist’s arsenal, used for clearing a person’s ears of excessive wax build up and hard wax. Removing a wax blockage can often help improve your hearing, alleviate any pressure build in the ear canal, and reduce ringing (tinnitus) in the ear.

There are a few different techniques that can be used to remove ear wax, but the most popular in recent years is microsuction ear wax removal. In this blog, we’ll explore why microsuction is so effective and what to expect from the procedure. So, what is microsuction ear wax removal?

Microsuction ear wax removal is the process of removing built-up earwax from the ear canal using a specialist microsuction machine. This machine creates and regulates a safe amount of suction to use in your ears, allowing the clinician to safely ‘vacuum’ away the excess wax.

Read on to find out more about microsuction ear wax removal, how it compares to other techniques, how it works, and what the advantages and disadvantages are.

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Ear Wax Removal Techniques

Throughout the years, there has been a wide variety of weird and wacky ear wax removal techniques dating back to around 210 BC. Ear picks were the traditional method of choice in much of the world, used to simply dig into the ear canal and scrape out the hard ear wax. 

Alternatively, one could opt for the strange fad of ear candling. Ear candling involves putting one end of a candle into your ear and lighting the other end. The theory was that this would draw the ear wax up through the candle and create suction. Both ear candling and ear picking have been proven to be ineffective and potentially dangerous.

Back in the 21st century, we now understand our ears much more and know that sticking objects in our ears is a bad idea. The most popular techniques of the last decade are:

  • Ear syringing - This involves inserting a syringe into the ear canal to squirt a jet of water that cleans away the wax. Because this method uses a syringe, the amount of pressure is controlled by the Audiologist’s hand. This makes it unsafe as there’s no guarantee that they won’t use damaging levels of pressure.

  • Ear irrigation - Ear irrigation is the evolution of syringing, and the terms are often used interchangeably. This method uses a machine to regulate the amount of water pressure, meaning that it will always be at safe levels and never cause damage.

  • Microsuction - Microsuction uses a specialist machine to create suction in the same way that a vacuum cleaner does. This suction is regulated to safe levels and used to gently remove wax buildup from the ears.

Microsuction has been the most popular choice in recent years. This is largely due to its high degree of safety, lack of mess and liquid, and reduced side effects such as dizziness.

How Does Microsuction Work?

Microsuction uses a specialist micro suction machine to create the perfect amount of suction to safely remove ear wax from the ear canal. At the end of the suction tube is a long, thin nozzle that fits into your ear and is able to manoeuvre around to get all of the build-up. This is an extremely precise procedure which can be used to focus directly on the wax rather than cleaning in areas with no wax.

For even more precision, this can be used alongside an endoscope, which is a tiny camera that fits into your ear canal so that the Audiologist can see what they’re doing more effectively.

While clinics may differ slightly in their appointments, here at the Hearing Excellence Clinic our appointments will always follow the same steps:

  1. Before coming to the clinic, we recommend that you use an ear wax softener such as Earol for 3-5 days prior to your appointment. This will ensure that the wax is soft enough to remove and it will lessen any side effects.

  2. Once in the clinic, we’ll ask routine medical questions to ensure that there are no underlying issues that might make microsuction unsafe for your ears.

  3. We then perform a visual examination using a video otoscope. This is a medical device similar to the handheld Otoscope a Doctor would use to look into your ears. However, the Video Otoscope has a camera built into it to give a much more detailed view of the ear canal than you would get with a normal handheld Otoscope.

  4. We also use the Video Otoscope to take a before and after digital image of the ear canals, so we can show you the difference once it is clear.

  5. With you sitting in our treatment chair, we’ll then place a specula (small plastic cone) into your ear and use our hospital-grade microsuction machine to create suction through it. 

  6. A sterile suction probe is placed into the specula, and our clinician will gently vacuum away all of the excess wax.

Is Microsuction Good for Ear Wax Removal?

When compared to other ear wax removal techniques such as ear syringing or ear irrigation, microsuction has a range of benefits that make it the most popular choice around.

  • Safety: Microsuction is one of the safest options available. It is performed under direct vision and doesn’t expose the ear canal to moisture in the same way that syringing does. The higher level of precision available allows the clinician to target specific areas and change settings as needed.

  • Effectiveness: It is also very effective at removing stubborn ear wax. A 2014 study by Prowse and Mulla showed that it was successful in 91% of appointments. Here at Hearing Excellence Clinic, we’re so confident in microsuction that we provide a wax-free guarantee so that if it’s unsuccessful on the first try, we’ll bring you back for as many appointments as needed free of charge.

  • Suitability For Conditions: Certain conditions will limit what methods are possible to complete. Conditions such as a history of ear surgery or narrow ear canals mean that treatment using water may be unsafe. Often, microsuction can still be performed here in a safe manner.

What Are the Disadvantages of Microsuction?

While the benefits are many, it’s also important to be aware of any disadvantages of microsuction so that you can make an informed decision:

  • Specialised Equipment: Because microsuction requires highly specialised and expensive equipment, as well as highly trained hearing care professionals, not all audiologists are able to offer this service, particularly in rural areas. This also means that it can often be more expensive for the client.

  • Discomfort: Microsuction is generally a discomfort-free procedure, however, it’s still important to be aware that in a very small number of cases, patients may experience mild discomfort from the actual procedure itself or noise level of the suction treatment. If you do have a low tolerance to noise we would advise that you make the clinician aware of this before the treatment as Microsuction may not be suitable for you.

  • Safety: As discussed above, microsuction is considered the safest ear wax removal method available. However, there are an extremely small number of cases where the procedure causes damage to the ear. This is usually caused by the clinician being too aggressive and digging too deep or trying to pull away wax that is too hard. Because of this, it's extremely important to only use a Hearing Care Professional that is qualified and highly experienced, such as our team at Hearing Excellence.

What Should I Do After Microsuction?

To ensure that you’re safe, it’s recommended to follow a few guidelines after the procedure to avoid all possible negative outcomes. Here’s our list of rules to follow:

  • Try to keep your ear canal dry for 24 hours after the procedure. Avoid any ear drops or solutions during this time.

  • Do not insert any cotton swabs or earbuds into your ear. This will only push earwax into the canal and cause it to compact.

  • Follow any specific guidance given by your clinician during the treatment.

Microsuction Ear Wax Removal With Hearing Excellence Clinic

At the Hearing Excellence Clinic, we provide a range of hearing services in our clinics in Sheffield and Barnsley. Our Lead Audiologist and Clinic Director, Mr Paul Jackson, has over 22 years of qualified experience working with some of the biggest names in the UK. After leaving his role as the Head of Audiology for Bayfield Opticians and Audiologists, Paul set up the Hearing Excellence Clinic to bring him back to the role he loves, helping his customers live their lives to the fullest.

If you’re in need of ear wax removal in Sheffield or Barnsley, visit our Ear Wax Removal page or Microsuction Ear Wax Removal page for more information. Alternatively, you can get in touch with a member of our friendly team!

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