This Months Health Advice

What is Ear Microsuction and why is this the safest and most thorough procedure for clearing the ear canals?

Ear Microsuction is not a new procedure. It has been used for many years in NHS and Private ENT departments in hospitals, mainly for in depth examination of the ears and for treatment of more complex conditions like severe outer ear infections, removal of foreign bodies, clearing the ear canals after surgery, etc. Ear Microsuction must be used when ear irrigation/syringing is contraindicated (perforated or thinned/scarred eardrums, young children, cleft palate, acute ear infections, history of past ear surgery, unilateral deafness, history of vertigo or tinnitus generated by ear irrigation in the past).

Ear Microsuction offers more thorough clearing of the ear canal because it is performed with a specialist microscope which offers excellent lighting and magnification. The earwax, the foreign body or the discharge are extracted easily and painlessly with specialised instruments and a gentle suction device. The procedure does not use water inside the ear canal. The microscope allows excellent examination of the eardrum at the end of the Ear Microsuction procedure.

When do we need to have our ears cleared?

Earwax is a mixture of cerumen, dry skin, hairs, dust inside ear canals. It needs to be extracted if it causes symptoms like blockage, pain, itching, cough, dizziness, tinnitus or if the ear needs to be viewed for diagnostic purposes.

Our ear canals are 1 inch long and they self-clean in normal circumstances. However, if we use cotton buds, ear plugs or hearing aids on a regular basis, the earwax can be pushed deeper in the ear canals. Also, allowing water to enter our ear canals is likely to cause sore and blocked ears. Our ears need to be kept dry as this will allow the skin to perform its self- clean function efficiently.

It is likely to benefit from Ear Microsuction if:
- The ear feels blocked and using olive oil for 5 days has not helped
- Recurrent ear discomfort and blockage after washing hair or swimming
- The hearing aids are underperforming or whistling
- The ear canal is infected, sore, discharging
- A foreign body in the ear needs extracting
- Children with persistent earwax blockage despite olive oil use

Care after Ear Microsuction
Aim to keep your ears dry at all times. You can plug your ears with cotton wool and smudge vaseline on top. However, in case your ears still get wet use a hairdryer on a low heat setting from a foot distance away from your ear.

Do not insert cotton buds or any other objects “smaller than your elbow” (as ENT specialists say!) inside your ear canals.

Use ear plugs if you swim regularly.

Do not use abrasive earplugs inside your ears. The skin in our ear canals is very thin and extremely sensitive, as there is not enough room in there for normal thickness skin.

If your hearing has not improved to satisfactory levels, have a hearing test.
Have your hearing screened every 2-3 years, especially if you have worked in noisy environments, play musical instruments or go to lots of loud concerts, have a family history of deafness, have had ear surgery in the past.

Article written by Dr Ella Carmaciu who holds an ear microsuction clinic at The Chelmsford Private Hospital on Thursday afternoons.

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