Earwax build-up

Normally earwax just falls out on its own. When it’s blocking your ears a pharmacist can help.

How you can treat earwax build-up yourself

Don’t use your fingers or any objects like cotton buds to remove earwax. This will push it in and make it worse.

Usually earwax falls out on its own. If it doesn’t and blocks your ear, put 2 to 3 drops of olive or almond oil in your ear twice a day for a few days.

Over 2 weeks lumps of earwax should fall out of your ear, especially at night when you’re lying down.

There is no evidence that ear candles or ear vacuums get rid of earwax.

A pharmacist can help with earwax build-up

Speak to a pharmacist about earwax build-up. They can give advice and suggest the treatment. They might recommend chemical drops to dissolve the earwax. The earwax should fall out on its own or dissolve after about a week.

Don’t use drops if you have a hole in your eardrum (called a perforated eardrum).

See a nurse in your GP practice if:

  • your ear hasn’t cleared after 5 days
  • your ear is badly blocked and you can’t hear anything (you can get an infection if it isn’t cleared)

Not all GP practices remove earwax

Some can:

  • flush the wax out with water (ear irrigation)
  • suck the wax out (microsuction)

These treatments are usually painless. You might have to pay to have them done privately.

Preventing earwax build-up

You can’t prevent earwax. It’s there to protect your ears from dirt and germs.

However, you can keep using ear drops to soften the wax. This will help it fall out on its own and should prevent blocked ears.

Causes of earwax

You might have earwax build-up because:

  • you just have more wax in your ears (some people naturally do)
  • you have hairy or narrow canals (the tubes that link the eardrum and outer ear)
  • of your age - wax gets harder and more difficult to fall out
  • of hearing aids, earplugs and other things you put in your ear - these can push the wax further in

How to tell if your ear is blocked with earwax

You can have:

  • earache
  • difficulty hearing
  • itchiness
  • dizziness
  • an ear infection
  • sounds such as high-pitched tones coming from inside the ear (tinnitus)

Once the earwax is removed these symptoms usually improve. If they don’t, see the nurse in your GP practice.

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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