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Ear Irrigation and Why Do We Also Call It Ear Lavage or Ear Syringe

What is Ear Irrigation and Why Doctors Use an Ear Syringe?

It is a medical procedure in which the ear of a patient is being cleaned with water using an syringe or ear irrigator. With that kind of procedure, we get rid of an excessive earwax or more professionally called cerumen. We don’t just get rid of the cerumen but also other foreign materials. Also, horrendous bugs can be trapped inside (most of which have yoghurty names like aspergillus).


Earwax is a great thing produced by dead skin cells in the ear canal. The job of it is to protect and lubricate the inside of an ear. Because our ears are exposed to infections the ear wax can stop the debris and hinder bacterial growth.

But sometimes our bodies want to produce more of it. Which is of course not good. This can lead to impacted earwax and fully blockage in the ear, which doesn’t allow you to hear correctly. Then come the pain, itchiness and constant feeling like something is in the ear.

Why Ear Irrigation or so Called Ear Lavage?

It is a very safe procedure as long as you do not have some health problems or a ruptured eardrum. Cleaning a delicate ear canal with water is a soft way to do it. 

Imagine earwax is superglued to the skin of your inner ear canal. First, you will need to soften it, right? What is a better way to clean it than with water? – This way is very hard to damage the skin of an inside of an ear.

Cleaning is important to avoid harmful ear infections and of course that too much of objects won’t harbor in the ear canal, because they can press on the eardrum. 

You still want to hear, right?

How is it Done Right?

The excessive earwax won’t go away on its own and also you should not perform ear irrigation in the comfort of your own home. It is better to leave it to the experienced master called the doctor.

The doctor will perform ear irrigation intervention with you using a ear syringe and it will not hurt or harm you. It is a common technique done on many patients. First, he or she will look through the otoscope to make sure if you need the procedure. If it’s needed the procedure can be done in the “doctors’ room”. The doctor will use a tool called syringe. With a ear syringe, the liquid (water and saline mixture) will be pressured inside of an ear canal. Imagine like flushing a toilet. It is exactly how it is going to happen. 

Maybe at this moment, a patient feels a bit uncomfortable tilting the head on one side with something dripping out of the ear. That is why the soft tissue can be placed directly under the ear.ear-wax-removal-using-an-ear-syringe



The liquid inside of syringe should be in room temperature or even a little bit warmer. This will dis-cause dizziness.

Risks and side effect of Using an Ear Syringe

The eardrum can be damaged with ear irrigation. But this only happens if too much pressure was made during the procedure. Rupture of an eardrum can also happen if you are sick while procedure or you have a weak immune system.

That is why you shouldn’t go to the doctor if you are sick or if you have an ear infection.

Anyway, the doctor will know exactly what to do with you once an otoscopic bright light will shine in your ear hole.

What about ear infection?

You don’t want to have an ear infection- let’s be clear on that. Not because of its grossness but because it can hurt you very badly. And I am talking about big pain here!!!

There are two nasty ear infections. First one is otitis externa which in Latin means inflammation of an outer ear canal. The second infection is called otitis media. The only difference between those two infections is the location of them.

Ruptured eardrum aka. perforated eardrum

There is nothing better than a fresh eardrum. Believe me, I am telling from personal experiences. Once the eardrum is ruptured there is no way to be for the eardrum good as it was before. Of course, the membrane will grow back, but the scar will stay there and infections can develop faster. That is why take care of your ears- eardrums.

With ear irrigation, the eardrum can be ruptured, but only if too much pressure is applied during the procedure.

*Maybe you have too much of a hardened earwax that water only pushes earwax to the eardrum and with this is possible to perforate the eardrum. In other cases, even the fluid can be trapped in the ear canal and this causes an increased pressure that can rupture the eardrum.

Other complications and side effects of Ear Lavage

Such as: 

  • hearing loss (temporary or permanent)
  • vertigo (temporary)

Not necessarily that ear syringe will work that is why the doctor like to use the combination of different cleaning methods. Many times they first prescribe ear drops like Debrox which will soften earwax and later ear irrigation will be processed.

But it is never good to use cotton swabs or anything similar to them. They can easily rupture an eardrum.

Other uncomfortable side effects can happen:

  • discomfort in the ear canal
  • pain in the ear canal
  • temporary dizziness
  • tinnitus aka. ringing in the ears

Those side effects can be unpleasant, but they are usually short-lasting and they go away in a couple of days. If they last longer than a week then it is strongly suggested to see a doctor.