British Tinnitus Association
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Microsuction and Irrigation

Microsuction and Irrigation.

The ear is a delicate and sophisticated organ that some people might not give much thought to, as the majority of the time it is able to take care of itself, until something goes wrong with it. Attached to the side of our head we see the outer ear known as the Pinnia. It collects sounds from the outside world and funnels them down the narrow passageway inside our head that we know as the ear canal.

The sounds are directed onto the eardrum that is situated in the middle ear. The ear canal is lined with wax the medical term cerumen. Small glands in the ears produces the wax and protects the skin of the canal by preventing bacteria, dirt and other foreign substances from entering. Under normal circumstances the wax passes out harmlessly but sometimes, a build up can make the ears feel blocked and one might experience hearing loss, itchiness, sometimes pain and even tinnitus.

If using eardrops doesn’t clear the blockage a visit to the GP surgery for removal of the wax using irrigation might be necessary, or in some cases going to an ENT clinic for microscution.

Some people have concerns about microsuction and irrigation and whether they are safe for use on people that have tinnitus? I had a lengthy discussion with someone recently who’s adamant their tinnitus was made worse after having microsuction. This person had done all the right things. Applying olive oil eardrops to each ear for two weeks prior to the procedure and still ended up with problems. I therefore believe, the health professional doing the microsuction, wasn’t as skilled and adept as he or she should have been. This is unfortunate, as the person in question had no way of knowing this and is now enduring more discomfort.

The old fashioned method of ear syringing, using a metal canister filled with water and squirted into the ear under pressure, to remove earwax is no longer used. This method was rather crude and abrasive and could cause problems to the ear. Modern ear irrigation is considered a gentler and safer method. I have had this done three times at my GP surgery without problems. Prior to it being carried out I used eardrops 3 times a day for 10 days to soften the wax.

When the earwax is impacted irrigation might be unsuccessful even after using eardrops. The next step is microsuction. As the name suggests, the wax is literally sucked out using a small handheld wand with a suction tip and is considered to be the safest method of wax removal. I have also had this done three times at my hospital ENT department, which was carried out my consultant who I had every confidence in and had no problems. She is a firm believer in the use of microsuction especially for someone with tinnitus. Again, eardrops should be used for 7 to 10 days before having it done.

A word of caution. Type into any search engine and you’ll probably find a mirosuction clinic in your area, advising how safe and quick it is and that there’s no need to use eardrops to soften the wax. Others might say just use it for a couple of days or the night before coming into clinic. I strongly advise you not follow this advice. People have contacted me after having microsuction and didn’t use eardrops for 7 to 10 days and ended up with tinnitus that they didn’t have before. When they returned to the clinic to complain they were quickly shown the door.

Every medical procedure carries a risk. It is just not ideal to go around with blocked up ears, hearing loss or experiencing increased tinnitus as a result of impacted wax. If one is paying privately, try to find a reputable clinic and use olive oil eardrops in the manner I’ve stated before having microsuction or irrigation. I also advise to use eardrops two or three times a week to keep earwax soft so it can pass out through the ears naturally and help prevent build up.


PS: I wrote the above post at another forum and included it here for information purposes only and shouldn’t be regarded as medical advice.

5 Replies

Thanks you for this comprehensive and unbiased summary on wax removal. I am wholeheartedly on the side of microsuction - which I have had on the NHS and privately, after many sessions of syringing over the past forty years. Sometimes I wonder whether the latter method contributed to the constant hissing in my left ear, but really don't think this can be the case as the problem is either caused by damaged hairs in the cochlea or an over-active audiological pathway to receptors in the brain.

Soldiering on!

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Had this myself Michael and I would have it again far better then the norm.

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Thanks Michael for this perspective on ear wax removal from a "lay" person's point of view - I was going to say "user's" but that didn't sound right!

We do have an information sheet on ear wax removal written by a practitioner and trainer of nurses, and you can find it on our website at

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Had an ear cleared out yesterday using microsuction at a private clinic. I've been using olive oil drops on & off for the last few months and daily over the last week or so. I'd visited my GP and they said the wax appeared to be soft enough for removal and the fella who did it concurred. I've had microsuctioning done before and didn't have any problems, but this time it seemed terrifying - lasted less than a minute, but the noise was akin to a 747 taking off in my head. My hearing has definitely been affected by this procedure, I'm praying that this is a temporary change. I have an appointment lined up in a few weeks with the NHS audiology team I've been dealing with, fingers crossed it will have calmed down again by then.

I'm clear in my own mind that I'm never having this procedure done again. Far too risky.


Absolutely....I have tinnitus and a few days ago I had my ears suctioned out with any prior ear drops. Apart from the operator having trouble removing the ear wax..I am now left with degraded hearing as well as the tinnitus. When I listen to speaking or music, its distorted and sort of broken up in a rattly type of effect.. Its not good... I would have been better to have put up with partially blocked ears..wax & all. What's the old saying but a wise one...The cure is worse than the bite!