Specialists in Earwax Removal

Is ear syringing safe?

Is ear syringing safe?

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Today, I am discussing the safety of ear syringing as a method of ear wax removal. Together we’ll explore how ear syringing works, the associated risks, the reasons for it’s (almost complete) discontinuation by the NHS in GP surgeries, and the safer alternative method I use: Micro suction. We’ll also touch upon how certain conditions can increase the risk of tinnitus, hearing loss, and ear wax blockages. Let’s dive in!

How Ear Syringing Works

Ear syringing, or ear irrigation, is a technique used to remove excessive ear wax. This is by flushing the ear canal with water or a saline solution. The process involves the following steps:

  1. Preparation: The ear syringing equipment is assembled, and the solution is warmed to body temperature. If the water is too cold it can cause nausea and vertigo for up to a week. If it is too hot it can scold the sensitive skin inside your ear.

  2. Positioning: The patient is positioned with their head tilted to the side to allow easy access to the ear canal.

  3. Irrigation: The syringe is inserted into the ear canal, directing a steady flow of fluid towards the blockage. This fluid forces itself between the earwax and your eardrum and pushes some of the wax out.

  4. Collection: A bowl is used to catch the water, wax, and debris as they flow out of the ear. It can get messy and a towel is often needed to mop up the spray.

  5. Repeat: If the wax is not completely removed, the process may be repeated or alternative methods considered.

Risks Associated with Ear Syringing

While ear syringing is a commonly used method for wax removal, it is essential to be aware of the associated risks:

  1. Ear Canal Trauma: Forceful syringing may lead to trauma or injury to the delicate tissues of the ear canal, resulting in bruising, pain, and potential infection.

  2. Inadequate Wax Removal: Ear syringing may not completely eliminate your wax, potentially causing partial blockage, discomfort, or recurring issues. Further treatment or procedures will be required in these instances.

  3. Risk of Infection: If the water or solution used for syringing is not sterile, you will introduce bacteria, leading to potential infection. The warm temperature of your ear can also be a breeding ground for bacteria should any water remain post-procedure.

  4. Perforated Eardrum: The procedure can perforate your eardrum due to the forceful pressure from syringing. If you have an existing perforation or weakened eardrums, you are at a much higher risk.  Anyone in this category should never have their ears syringed.

Why do GPs no longer do ear syringing?

The NHS in the UK has mostly discontinued ear syringing in GP surgeries. This is for 2 main reasons. The first is down to budget reallocation. The remainder are operational concerns over the following 3 areas:

  1. Safety Concerns: The associated risks and limitations of ear syringing led to concerns regarding patient safety and the potential for complications.

  2. Inadequate Wax Removal: Ear syringing may not always effectively remove all of your wax, leading to the need for repeated procedures or alternative methods.

  3. Specialised Training: Ear syringing requires specific training to ensure proper technique and minimise risks. This posed challenges in terms of training availability and maintaining consistent quality across each surgery.

Micro Suction: A safer alternative

Micro suction is now the gold standard for ear wax removal due to its numerous benefits and superior safety. It involves the use of a specialised suction device that allows trained professionals to precisely and gently remove excess earwax from the ear. Here are some of the key advantages of micro suction:

  1. Safety and Precision: Unlike ear syringing, which involves the use of blind, forceful water-pressure, micro-suction is a controlled, precise procedure. It minimises the risk of trauma to the delicate structures of your ear canal, reducing the chances of pain, infection, and complications.

  2. Effective: It is highly effective in removing even stubborn, impacted ear wax. The suction allows us to safely and thoroughly extract your wax without pushing it further into your ear canal.

  3. Suitable for All: Micro suction is suitable for anyone. It can be safely performed, regardless of the presence of ear abnormalities, such as narrow canals, perforations or infection.

  4. Minimal Discomfort: Patients typically report minimal discomfort during micro suction, as the procedure is gentle, precise and does not involve the use of force. 

  5. Immediate Results: One of the significant advantages of micro suction is that it will provide you with immediate relief. You will hear and feel improvement straight after the procedure.

  6. Hygienic and Sterile: All of our equipment is sterile and single-use, ensuring a hygienic and safe procedure. This eliminates the risk of cross-contamination and reduces the chances of infection.

Effects of Untreated Ear Wax Blockages:

If left untreated, your earwax blockage can lead to various complications and impact your hearing health. Here are a few potential consequences:

  1. Tinnitus: Excessive ear wax can contribute to the development or worsening of tinnitus, a condition characterised by a ringing, buzzing, or whistling sound in the ears. Removing the ear wax can alleviate tinnitus symptoms.

  2. Hearing Loss: Ear wax blockages usually cause temporary hearing loss. The wax can obstruct the passage of sound waves, resulting in muffled or reduced hearing. Prompt removal of the wax can restore normal hearing.

  3. Ear Infections: Blocked ear canals provide an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria, increasing the risk of ear infections. Symptoms may include ear pain, discharge, and a feeling of fullness. Proper ear wax removal can help prevent such infections.

  4. Recurring Ear Wax Build-up: Some individuals are prone to excessive ear wax production or recurring blockages. Regular maintenance and professional ear wax removal can help manage this condition and prevent the accumulation of wax.


When it comes to ear wax removal, prioritising safety and effectiveness is crucial. While ear syringing has been a historically popular method, it carries certain risks. It has been discontinued by the NHS in GP surgeries, partly due to budget changes. Micro suction has emerged as the gold standard for ear wax removal, offering a safe, precise, and effective alternative. Remember, untreated ear wax blockages can lead to complications such as tinnitus, hearing loss, and ear infections. 

If you are worried about your hearing, or that of a loved one, call us.

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Concerned about your hearing?

Don't syringe your ears when safer alternatives are available

If you are looking for more information on the subject before making an appointment, this bit is for you.

You can visit the NHS webpage on the subject by clicking here

If you’re sick of looking at screens, you can call us for a chat on 01429233091 or 07944002810.