Earwax: Nature's Marvel or DIY Disaster?

Understanding the aim, limitations & risks of at-home ear cleaning


The allure of quick fixes extends to our own bodies, even to the delicate and complex architecture of the ear. All ears produce wax, but the amount varies from person to person and depends partly on genetics. The RNID has recently highlighted how the withdrawal of ear wax removal services across the country has left an unmet need. Enter the rise of at-home ear cleaning tools, often touted as the solution for stubborn earwax buildup. But before you succumb to the ‘new trend’, consider the potential consequences of these seemingly harmless gadgets.

Earwax: A Misunderstood Hero

Contrary to popular perception, earwax is not a nuisance to be eradicated. It is, in fact, a remarkable bio-engineered marvel. It’s sticky consistency traps dust, debris, and even pesky insects before they can reach the sensitive inner ear. Moreover, it possesses natural antibacterial properties, further safeguarding the delicate structures within.

The Pitfalls of Self-Cleaning

Armed with cotton swabs, metal scoops, and even cameras, the at-home approach promises instant gratification. However, these tools, wielded without specialised knowledge and proper training, can wreak havoc on the delicate ear canal, ear drum, and beyond. Here's why:

  • Impaction: Whilst removing some of the wax, at-home tools can inadvertently push the rest deeper, leading to blockages and a cascade of negative consequences, including hearing loss, dizziness, and pain.

  • Perforation: The tympanic membrane, or eardrum, is a fragile barrier. Uncoordinated use of these tools can cause punctures, compromising hearing permanently and increasing the risk of infection.

  • Infection: Introducing foreign objects into the ear canal disrupts the natural balance of bacteria, creating a breeding ground for potentially harmful microorganisms.

Dr. Joseph Manjaly, a leading consultant ENT Surgeon, Otologist & Hearing Implant Specialist with extensive experience in treating ear conditions, offers a stark perspective on the place of at-home ear-cleaning tools.

"Ear wax removal videos make for compelling guilty viewing pleasure. There are few things more satisfying than seeing all that gloop cleaned up! Such videos are great when done safely by a professional. But the trend can also lead to two frequent misunderstandings…Firstly, wax is not dirt. In the majority of cases, it should be left alone. The three reasons for it to be removed are if it’s i) causing hearing loss, ii) causing pain or blockage, or iii) an expert needs to see behind it to make a diagnosis. In reality, the wax that really does need to be removed is often the hardest to remove without causing damage. 

At-home low-cost selfie ear cameras can now take beautiful images of an ear drum. But when mooted as wax-removal devices they are typically shown removing wax that never needed to be removed in the first place. When wax is really impacted, the only truly safe way is a two-handed technique, using microsuction, in the hands of a skilled and thoroughly trained specialist. 

Behind the eardrum lies not only the hearing mechanism but also the organ of balance and the facial nerve (which if traumatised will result in facial paralysis). For this reason, ear wax removal is a medical procedure and should never be under-estimated”. 

This powerful statement underscores the potential risks associated with these seemingly convenient gadgets and emphasises the importance of seeking professional care for ear health. Let Dr. Manjaly's expertise shed light on the often misunderstood world of earwax and guide you towards safe and effective solutions.

Our Services

At OneWelbeck, we believe your ears deserve the very best care. We are proud to be the home of London’s most renowned team of consultant otologic surgeons and audiologists, equipped with state-of-the-art technology and extensive experience to offer precise and safe earwax removal.

  • Every clinic room on our bespoke ENT floor is equipped with gold standard binocular microsuction facilities.

  • Wax removal, when required, can be performed within a clinic consultation without the need for a separate booking.

  • Once wax removal is complete, patients then have instant same-appointment access to hearing testing and further audiological diagnostics, if it turns out that wax is not the sole cause of their symptoms.

Investing in Your Hearing Health

OneWelbeck, we treat your ear health with the highest regard. Choose the expertise of our specialist consultants and embark on a journey to optimal hearing well-being.

Our Specialist Consultants