Accumulation of earwax is a common condition suffered by many individuals. A research done in 2020 has shown that around 150,000 earwax removals are done in the United States every week. Some of the conventional ways of removing the earwax buildup are:(5)
- Using water or fluid to irrigate the ear.
- Using earwax softeners.
- Getting the earwax buildup removed manually by a doctor.
What are the Symptoms of Earwax Buildup?(6,7)
Excessive accumulation of earwax results in discomfort and symptoms, such as: tinnitus, sudden hearing loss; earache and pressure in the ear. It is important to clear the excessive earwax as soon as possible, if not taken seriously, then it can lead to more serious problems, such as an ear infection.
Microsuction or ear vacuuming is one of the common manual methods used to remove the accumulated earwax by the doctors. In this procedure, a long, thin nozzle is used that is fitted into the ear to remove or rather suction out the wax.
What is Microsuction Earwax Removal?(10)
Microsuction ear cleaning or earwax removal is a common and preferred technique by the doctors to remove extra earwax from the ear. Before starting the Microsuction technique for earwax removal, the doctor will inspect the affected ear canal with a microscope to locate the blockage within the ear canal.
An endoscope, that is a tiny camera with a light, can also be used which is fitted into the ear canal to visualize the ear canal clearly.
During microsuction earwax removal, a tiny vacuum is used to gently use suction to break down and remove the wax. Microsuction tends to be less widely available when compared to other techniques of earwax removal as the microsuction equipment is costlier.
However, microsuction ear cleaning is a good option for removing the jammed earwax from the ear and this procedure needs to be done by a doctor.
Even though microsuction is the preferred way of removing the earwax by the doctors, there is no clinical evidence as of now that shows this technique is more effective or better than other methods of removing earwax, such as ear irrigation.(2)
In case the micro-suction equipment is not available, then irrigation is a good alternative for removing the earwax buildup.
How is the Procedure of Microsuction Ear Cleaning or Earwax Removal Done?(9,10)
Before starting the microsuction technique for earwax removal procedure, the doctor will ask questions regarding past medical history of ear conditions and the symptoms present now along with the medications that the patient is taking and any allergies the patient has.
After the medical history of the patient is taken, the doctor inspects the patient’s ear canal with a tiny camera or microscope. There may be a screen present where the doctor can visualize the inside of the ear more clearly. The time taken for the microsuction procedure is only a few minutes. A long, thin vacuum is inserted into the ear which generates mild suction to dislodge and eventually remove the earwax.
The patient can feel some suction sensation within the ear and also squeaking or crackling sound when the microsuction technique for earwax removal is going on.
After the earwax has been dislodged, then the doctor can remove it using the vacuum itself or can use forceps to gently extract the earwax.
Is the Microsuction Method For Removing The Earwax Suitable For Everyone?(10)
There is no doubt Microsuction is a good option for removing the excessive earwax, but there are some patients who may not be a suitable candidate for this procedure, such as children below the age of 10 years are not suitable for this procedure, as they won’t be able to keep their head still.
What are the Benefits of Microsuction Earwax Removal?(8,10)
Microsuction is quite an effective method for removing earwax. A study done in 2014 showed that microsuction was more than 90% effective at removing the accumulated earwax in a group of 159 participants.(3)
Other benefits of Microsuction over other methods, such as irrigation for removing the earwax, are:
- The microsuction procedure is faster than other methods for removing the earwax.
- In the Microsuction technique, the ear canal does not get exposed to any moisture, which is a big plus.
- The inside of the ear can be clearly and easily visualized by the doctor during the procedure.
Unlike irrigation, microsuction ear cleaning technique can usually be done on patients who have: a history of ear surgery; a ruptured eardrum; foreign body in the ear and outer ear infection. (mild otitis externa)(9)
What are the Risks & Side Effects of Microsuction Earwax Removal?(1,9)
There is still some ongoing research regarding the safety of microsuction on the ears. In an older study done in 2010, researchers discovered that about 55% participants had side effects from the microsuction technique.(5) However, these side effects were temporary and mild. Some of the common side effects of Microsuction earwax removal were:
- Discomfort from the sound made by the machine during the procedure.
- Dizziness and reduced hearing.
Some of the more serious, but rare complications from Microsuction earwax removal include: infection, eardrum injury, worsening tinnitus and temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Note(1): According to the research, it was found that the use of ear drops before doing the microsuction procedure decreased the amount of dizziness and pain felt.
Is the Microsuction Ear Cleaning Painful?
If the microsuction technique for earwax removal procedure is done in the right way, then it is done in a few minutes and without any pain felt. There are some patients who have reported feeling a mild tickling sensation during this procedure. If there is any discomfort felt during the microsuction procedure, then the patient should inform the doctor immediately.
Other Than Microsuction, What are some Alternative Methods for Removing the Earwax?(8)
- Ear Irrigation(1): This method incorporates the use of a saline mixture or water to flush out or remove the earwax. Ear Irrigation can be easily done by the doctor in their clinic.
- Earwax Softeners(1): Over-The-Counter ear drops are used to soften the accumulated and hard earwax. It is always better to use the eardrops, which are specifically made for this purpose, but people use many household ingredients, such as hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, baking soda, olive oil, to soften the earwax.
- Manual Techniques: Manually removing the earwax is also done by the doctor where curette is used, which is a small and curved instrument, to manually remove the earwax. One should never try to remove the earwax blockage on your own at home, as you can push the wax further into the ear canal or even damage your eardrum.
Microsuction earwax removal or cleaning is a good technique to remove the accumulated earwax from the ear canal. Microsuction earwax removal is a relatively safe, effective and painless procedure.
However, just like any other medical procedures, microsuction also carries the risk of some complications, which are not common though. Some of the common side effects of microsuction ear cleaning are: Temporary hearing loss and dizziness. Severe complications from microsuction are: Ear infection and eardrum damage.