Ear Care

Ear Syringing Is Unsafe

Ear syringing

Quote from an ear, nose and throat text: “Injury to the ear is frequent with ear syringing,usually because insufficient care is taken in its execution”.

Ear syringing is no longer considered a safe practice

If there is an ear canal cleaning service available using a microscope/suction (and fully trained staff) then that is the preferred method for the safe and comfortable removal of wax from an ear canal. Best practice is to give clients an informed choice if both services are available before syringing is performed.

Syringing is a blind procedure

Often medical personnel performing the procedure:

  • are not skilled with an otoscope
  • do not have an otoscope with a good white light
  • do not recognise landmarks of the ear or ear conditions,
  • and proceed to squirt water into the ear in the hope that all will work out alright – sometimes without even looking at the ear canal first.

Ear syringing leads to negative side effects

The negative effects of syringing can lead to complications later, largely unnoticed by health professionals.

  • Syringing equipment may not be adequately clean and some clinics use unsterilised water.
  • Syringing removes the natural protective waterproof/bugproof layers of the ear canal.
  • Syringing leads to moist skin which is an infection risk.

Dead skin is often left in the canal after the wax has been dissolved with the water.

If the skin dries:

  • it may bounce and make noises
  • it can cause vertigo episodes
  • it may create a new wax plug.

If skin of the ear remains wet (or gets wet from a shower/swim) it becomes a ready home for infection, either acute or chronic.

If a person is experiencing:

  • an accelerated level of ear wax,
  • sticky wax,
  • an unpleasant odour ommitting from the ear drum (often ‘hot sweet’ odour),
  • requires ear syringing less than 6 months;
  • then this there is a bad bacteria in the ear which needs to be seen to by a trained health professional.

If you are still going to go through with the syringing procedure, the ear canal contents must softened first. If not, big hard plugs can be water blasted down the ear canal which causes blockage, and make even be forced against the eardrum creating injury and/or discomfort. Pharmacies now sell a wide range of wax softening drop, cooking oil is often used too.

Other common mistakes include:

  • Water temperature being below 38°C which can cause a negative reaction.
  • Not checking if the ear is empty afterwards i.e. the syringing was successful in getting wax out.
  • Not stopping the syringing if the client reports discomfort.

We have seen a frail elderly lady who had been squirted 48 times in one ear then sent out to drive home on her own to her empty house while in extreme distress with severe vertigo and nausea.

Trauma is an unnecessary side effect of unskilled ear syringing

Unfortunately, ear drum perforations can easily happen to areas of an eardrum with previous perforations/damage while syringing. this is why it is an unsafe practice.