Ear wax flushing is a method for removing impacted ear wax to make people feel more comfortable and improve hearing. It can be performed by a doctor in a clinic or done at home, with care, by patients who have been instructed in how to perform an ear wax flushing. It is important to be aware that procedures involving the ear canal can be dangerous for people who do not know what they are doing; a jet of water could damage the ear drum, for example, or someone could actually push ear wax further into the ear.
In a basic ear wax flushing, warm water can be used to loosen ear wax and then irrigate the ear to get it out. Sometimes, a chemical solution may be added if the wax buildup is very dry, hard, or large. Saltwater may be used because it is gentle on the ear. The temperature is carefully adjusted for comfort to avoid burning the inside of the ear or shocking it with too much heat. Typically, a bulb syringe is used for the process, as it offers a high level of control as well as gentle direction of the water.
The patient usually lies with the head on a surface like a table. A towel is spread underneath, as the process can be messy. Fluid will be gently syringed into the ear and may be allowed to sit briefly to loosen up the ear wax before the patient's head is tilted to allow it to pour out. Several flushes of clean water can be used to totally clear the ear, and the bulb syringe can be used to gently suck up water from inside the ear. The patient's head is tilted again to allow the water to drain, and the ear can be dried with a hair dryer on a low setting to make sure the water is eliminated.
Patients should be able to hear much more easily and comfortably after an ear wax flushing. Buildups of ear wax can happen for a variety of reasons, ranging from natural overproduction of wax to responses to irritation. Once the ear is cleaned, the patient can be provided with information on keeping the ear clean, including only using ear swabs around the outside of the ear, allowing wax within the ear canal to naturally push its way out.
Potential risks of an ear wax flushing can include damage to the ear caused by pushing a syringe too far into the ear, using a strong jet of water, or using water that is too hot or cold. Leaving water in the ear can also cause complications, as it can tend to facilitate inflammation and infection. Patients who have been dealing with excessive ear wax for a long time may also feel a little disoriented after their ears are clear.