Ear wax, to oil or not to oil?
To Oil or Not to Oil?
I get asked this question everyday and the quick answer is – yes, mostly it is of benefit!
But let’s look at the complexities more closely – firstly we need to establish whether the full feeling, pain, or itchiness in your ear/ears is due to wax or infection (normally Otitis externa – an outer ear infection). If you felt you were experiencing the latter (there is a watery discharge and usually pain) then oil is of no benefit – head straight to your GP for a swab of the ear canal and possible antibiotics.
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However if we are certain that the blocked feeling is due to wax then yes – oil is a benefit. There are just two important rules here when oiling – volume and frequency.
Our goal here is to just oil the canal and soften the wax slightly. If we over-oil then we end up spreading the wax over the surface of the ear drum which is less comfortable to have suctioned off.
So the key is to oil only one day prior (two applications is satisfactory). Using an eye dropper is the easiest – half fill the eye dropper with plain olive oil – lying on your side is the easiest way – slowly insert the oil – massage the tragus (The tragus is a small pointed eminence of the external ear) gently post application, as oil likes to sit in a bubble sometimes and massaging will allow it to penetrate deep into the canal. Stay lying on your side for 5 – 10 minutes. Use a cotton ball or piece of tissue to catch any excess oil.
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There is only one exception to the rule. In this case, we would NOT apply oil if we (as above suspected an outer ear infection) or suspected a perforated ear drum (Tympanic Membrane). A perforation is usually associated with pain, hearing loss and normally a discharge but not always. Oil would be of no value and we do not want oil to seeping into the middle ear space.
If you are unsure if oiling is going to be of value prior to Microsuction then a quick chat on the telephone or popping into our clinic for a quick view through the microscope might be the better option.