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Cost-cutting GPs are telling patients to do it themselves - but is it safe to syringe out your own ears?
When Matthew Becker developed hearing problems in his right ear, he was not overly concerned. In the past, this problem had been solved by a simple trip to his GP to have his ears syringed, but on this occasion, while ear wax was again the cause of the blockage, removing it was more difficult, although his doctor had no idea why. Concerned that syringing Matthew's ears a fourth time could do some damage, the GP sent him to see an ear specialist. Only then - and using tweezers, binocular-type glasses and a special suction machine used only by ear specialists - could the consultant carry out the delicate task of removing the problem wax.
Although a routine procedure, removal of wax through syringing was long thought to require the medical expertise of a nurse or GP, or even - as Matthew's case illustrates - an ear, nose and throat consultant. Yet new research suggests this expertise is unnecessary - patients should simply syringe their own ears in order to free up valuable GP time. The study, presented earlier this year at a meeting of the Society for Academic Primary Care, shows that if patients are taught to clear their own ears of wax - using a soft, plastic bulb syringe - each GP surgery could save nearly 200 consultations a year and thousands of pounds of NHS money. Dr Richard Coppin, a GP from Overington, Basingstoke, who carried out the research, believes the simple procedure has been 'medicalised'. He says: 'The time practice nurses spend undertaking ear syringing in UK general practice is considerable. The suggestion has prompted concern from specialists, who fear that patients could cause themselves permanent damage and problems such as tinnitus. Our ears - specifically the ceruminous apocrine glands in the ear canal - produce wax all the time.
However, some people produce more ear wax than others and, if it builds up and hardens, it can form a blockage. Ear wax can also be more of a problem if you have a narrow ear canal, work in dusty or dirty environments, wear ear plugs a lot or a hearing aid, or if your ear canal is particularly hairy. A GP or nurse will remove the wax using an electronic pulse pump that sends pressurised water into the ear canal. The home treatment suggested by Dr Coppin involves a bulb syringe that squirts warm water into the ear. While many doctors agree that ear syringing takes up a significant amount of their time, they're worried that it is a specialised treatment and patients could seriously harm their ears carrying out the procedure at home. Damage caused by ear syringing is already one of the most common causes of complaints against medical staff, says Andrew McCombe, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Frimley Park Hospital, Surrey.
The worry is that if laymen are let loose on their own ears, this would be even more risky.
Tinnitus - a condition where patients hear noise or ringing in their ears - is also linked to syringing. Alternatively oil drops can be put in the ear and this may be sufficient to dislodge the wax.

Suction using specialist equipment is another method of clearing the ears used by hospital departments. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. Please use this form if you have any questions or if you would like to book a FREE hearing test. HEARING WALES is the only hearing aid company in Wales that offers free Ear Wax Removal to all of our customers with our very own Specialist Nurse. We offer two types of earwax removal in Swansea, irrigation earwax removal and microsuction earwax removal. We offer home visit appointments throughout Wales, however they can only be offered for a small fee – please enquire with us about the details for your area.
Hearing Aid Users can sometimes suffer from a build up of Ear Wax, and without the proper treatment, it may prevent the wearer from getting the most from the hearing system. At HEARING WALES, it makes sense to us to offer both the provision of Hearing Aids and Ear Wax Removal all under the one roof! To reduce your risk of developing earwax problems, avoid putting objects into your ears, such as cotton buds, hairpins and matchsticks. 5 Star CentreWe are the only Hearing Centre in Wales to be awarded the Phonak 5 Star Centre status in recognition of the superior service that we offer. HEAD OFFICE: Hearing Wales, 47-48 The Grove, Uplands,Swansea, SA2 0QRHearing Wales, Swansea.
Edward Chisholm – Otolaryngology ENT SpecialistEar infections- otitis media and otitis externa can cause painful and itchy ears. The skin can become so swollen that the ear canal closes, causing temporary deafness, and there can be a scanty discharge from the ear.
It can affect both ears and often keeps recurring, especially if you are otherwise rundown or stressed. Treatment for outer ear infections is generally in the form of antibiotic ear drops which are instilled into the ear canal for at least a week. Longer term problems can occur when such infections are frequent, because there can be damage to the eardrum, or perhaps persistent deafness due to fluid remaining behind the eardrum (glue ear). A second but more serious form of middle ear infection is when it becomes chronic or long-lasting. Other significant symptoms such as tinnitus, weakness of the face or dizziness can occasionally occur.
Mastoid abscess behind the ear Infections of the inner ear are fortunately less common and are generally caused by viruses, although occasionally by secondary bacterial infection. The common cold virus is perhaps the most common cause of inner ear infections but many other viruses have also been associated with sudden deafness such as mumps, measles and herpes. The 35-year-old pub landlord from Farnborough, Surrey, had suffered blocked ears several times before as a result of ear wax. Although most practice nurses feel that syringing ears is a worthwhile use of their time, could that time be better spent?

It's a natural self-cleaning mechanism: the wax moves towards the outer part of the ear, carrying with it dirt and debris, keeping the ears clean and unblocked. These are already used by patients in other European countries where they are available over-the-counter in pharmacies.
Wax can also be removed with a metal probe or hook, although this obviously needs to be done by a specialist and is likely to be more painful. This is the safest method, and although noisier for the patient during treatment itself, it does not damage the hearing.
This service can be paticularly useful if you or someone you know finds it difficult to visit the GP surgery.
Without it, the skin inside your ear would become dry, cracked, infected or waterlogged and sore. As well as possibly damaging your ear eardrum or canal, putting things in your ears can also cause the wax to become lodged in your ear canal. We are very proud of our unparalleled service and offer comprehensive aftercare for the lifetime of your hearing system. It occurs commonly in people who suffer from skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis but also in people with narrow ear canals or who swim a great deal.
The most common is acute otitis media which is characterised by a severe earache and high temperature, generally in a child, with associated deafness. Happily, the eardrum almost always heals once the infection settles and the hearing also returns to normal. Generally, chronic middle ear disease is associated with a smelly ear discharge and deafness, but rarely with pain. In these cases referral to an ear nose and throat surgeon is very important as the treatment usually involves surgery to remove the infection from the middle ear and mastoid bone. It is much less common than in previous decades, but certainly still occurs, especially in toddlers, and it needs urgent treatment with antibiotics once the child is admitted to hospital. If you wear a hearing aid, or have a narrow or curving ear canal, the wax may build up in your ear, causing discomfort, a sensation of fullness or some loss of hearing and you may not get the best results from your hearing aid. Generally, outer ear infections are caused by a bacterial infection of the skin of the canal, although occasionally it may be due to a fungus or yeast. In severe cases referral to an ear nose and throat specialist is both necessary and appropriate for cleaning of the ear canal and more intensive treatment. Some people are prone to forming plugs of earwax in their canal which can cause a feeling of fullness and dull hearing.

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