Hearing management

Updated 29 November 2017

How a doctor would remove your earwax

You may be tempted to try to remove earwax build-up at home, but are you doing it they way a doctor would?


Scientists say that we have earwax to help protect the delicate ear canal and to trap dust, foreign objects and small flying insects, but no one knows for sure. It is known that the amount of wax you produce is genetically determined.

A proper syringing

One thing we do know is that wax build-up can cause symptoms like itchy ears, dizziness, a sensation of blocked ears and even a diminished sense of hearing. The first thing we reach for is a earbud or pin. Not only does using these implements worsen the problem, but cleaning your ears with pointed objects can damage the canal and the eardrum.

Read: Earbuds linked to ruptured eardrums

To solve the problem of blocked ears, best would be to visit your doctor for a proper syringing. Prior to your visit, put some wax-softening drops in your ear. Waxol drops work well.

Here's how you get those nasty wax plugs out of your ears:

1. Place some wax softening ear drops in your ear canal for a day or two.

2. Get a suction bulb (like the ones used to suck mucus from a baby's nose) and body-temperature water.

3. By softly aiming a gentle stream of water to the top part of the ear canal, you may manage to dislodge and wash some of the wax out.

4. Repeat the process a few of times.

5. If you don't have any success, stop! Continuous washing may damage the canal or ear drum.

When should you NOT self-syringe:

1. If you have grommets

2. If you have or previously had a hole in your tempanic membrane

3. If you have ear pain

4. If your ear canal is exceptionally narrow

5. If you've experienced dizzy spells 

Read more:

What causes foul-smelling ears?

The 10 worst jobs for your ears

Is inaudible noise making you deaf?

Image: Medical ear wash from Shutterstock


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Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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