What is ear wax?
Ear wax is a normal, oily substance that is antiseptic and helps to protect and clean your ears. It usually comes out of the ear by itself, aided by the movement of the jaw. But you may need to have ear wax removed:
- if you have hearing loss, earache, tinnitus, itchiness or vertigo (a spinning sensation) thought to be caused by a wax blockage
- if the wax is blocking the ear canal preventing the health specialist from examining the ear fully, carrying out hearing tests or taking impressions of the ear for hearing aid ear moulds
- if you use hearing aids and the wax is affecting how they work.
How do I remove ear wax?
See your GP if you think you have a build up of ear wax. They may prescribe ear drops to loosen the wax and see if it works its way out of your ear by itself. If the blockage doesn’t clear, you may need to have it removed. This is usually done using a device called an irrigator that washes the wax out of the ear with warm water. If this method isn’t suitable – for example, if you have a perforated eardrum – a specialist can lift or suck the wax out of the ear using special instruments; you may need to be referred to an ear, nose and throat doctor for this.
Don’t try to remove wax from your ears yourself. Never push cotton buds, fingers or anything else into your ears – you could push any wax deep into the ear and even damage your eardrum.
To find out more, see our Ear wax factsheet.