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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.

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Can Ear Wax Cause Tinnitus?


Tinnitus is defined as hearing sound without any external sound stimuli present and it manifests itself as ringing, clicking or hissing in your ears. The constant sound can lead to difficulties like loss of concentration, anxiety and even depression.

Tinnitus is not actually a disease, but a symptom, caused by several different things, which makes it hard to diagnose precisely. The most common reason behind tinnitus is hearing loss caused by noise. Other causes might be ear infections, taking certain medications, previous head injury and emotional stress. Earwax buildups are also the cause of many ear ailments, tinnitus being one of them, but how are they really related?

The Link Between Earwax and Tinnitus

Glands inside the ear canal secrete cerumen, as the medical professionals name the waxy substance, to protect our ears by intercepting dirt and foreign bodies and form a protective layer against bacteria and water. This process is self-regulating and takes care of the excess earwax by pushing it outwards with the help of jaw movement, so generally no extra cleaning is needed for our ears to function normally.

Most people experience no problems with earwax during their lives, but that doesn’t mean complications never occur. An excess of the substance, if not properly removed, can build up and become impacted. Such earwax blockages form because of many reasons, some people simply produce more earwax than others and people with dry type of cerumen are more likely to experience buildups. Blockages can also be caused by improper wax removal. Using ear hygiene products like cotton swabs can have exactly the opposite effect, instead of cleaning the wax, it can be pushed further inside the ear canal where it causes an impaction. We have just recently published an article about the best ear cleaning tools to use instead of cotton swabs. You will find more information about tools you can use to be on the safe side when cleaning your ears.

Excess earwax, impacted against the eardrum, creates pressure and is often the cause of tinnitus. The condition can be very agitating and can seriously affect your mood and your ability to concentrate. There is a definite relation between earwax and tinnitus, so if you are experiencing ringing in your ears, be sure to visit your general physician or an otorhinolaryngologistto check your ears and rule out earwax as the root of the problem.

Earwax Buildup Symptoms

As mentioned previously, earwax buildups can cause many complications with your ears. They impede the passage of sound, cause hearing loss, pain in the ear, irritation or itchiness and even spells of dizziness, by affecting the workings of the inner ear, which acts as the center for balance. Ringing in the ears is a possible sign of earwax impaction, along with odor and occasional discharges.

Such symptoms warrant the condition to be addressed as quickly as possible, ignoring the problem will only make matters worse and can even result in an unpleasant ear infection. While there are methods to remove the excess earwax by yourself, visiting your doctor is highly recommended to properly assess the situation and decide on the best way to treat the problem. There are also tools you can use at home to clean your ears. One of the best tools which are also used by doctors is the ear irrigator and the Elephant Ear Washer. Both of the tools clean ear wax building using water pressure. Water is injected in your ear canal under high pressure and cleans the inside of your ear once it gets inside.

There are also other similar tools like the endoscope ear pick, and the smart swab tool which are both working based on the same principles.

Treating Impacted Earwax

Removing the earwax, when it creates a blockage, is imperative to clean the ear canal and prevent further complications. This can be achieved using several different methods, which are not all equally effective and without risks.

Cerumenolytic, earwax solving or softening drops are the least invasive method of earwax removal, usually based on a type of oil or hydrogen peroxide. Drops should be used 2 to 3 times daily, in the period of 3 to 5 days. They soften the earwax enough to be easily dislodged and are often used in combination with other methods.

Ear irrigation can be performed with a syringe or a special irrigation device. Warm water or a saline mixture is used to wash the ear canal and remove any excess earwax and debris.

Curettes can be used to physically dislodge and scoop up the earwax. They are very effective with dry type of cerumen, as it flakes easily. Using utensils like curettes and cotton swabs should be left to trained professionals, since their careless use can result in abrasion, pushing the wax further in and even perforating the eardrum.

The methods described above vary in their effectiveness and carry certain risks, especially when attempted by untrained individuals. Practices like ear candling should always be avoided, as they are ineffective and dangerous. It is highly recommended to visit your general physician or an ear specialist to perform the earwax removal and avoid any further complications and unwanted side effects. Another reason to enlist the help of professionals is that people often do not thoroughly inspect the ear after cleaning, to make sure they removed all of the wax. If the wax is not removed completely, the buildup will soon reappear and make conditions like the troublesome tinnitus possible again.

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Hydrogen peroxide ear wax drops and ear irrigation against ear wax build-up

Earwax is a waxy substance secreted in the human ear canal. Its main function is protecting the skin of the ear canal and providing some measure of protection against water, bacteria, fungi and insects. You could use hydrogen peroxide ear wax drops, but you have to know that earwax also acts as a cleaning and lubricating agent of the ear canal. Ear cleaning is a natural process, the ear releases the wax naturally and removal is not necessary, even discouraged by medicine professionals in normal situations but you cold use. Check out our favourite ear wax removal tools

Some people, however, produce more of the substance than others and the excess wax build-up can cause ear canal blockage, which can in turn lead to several problems like: hearing difficulties, tinnitus or ringing in the ear, itching, earaches and infections. Visiting a doctor is recommended when a person is experiencing discomfort, pain, hearing loss or an ear infection. However, if the symptoms are less severe, there are ways to soften the earwax and remove the build-up by yourself or with some help from a family member at home, using one of the methods described below. You should never use cotton swabs, paperclips, hairpins, or any such objects to clean your ear canal, as you could push the build- up further in, making the situation worse or even damage or puncture your ear canal and your eardrum.

Saline solution or distilled water wash

The simplest method you can try is using a water wash to dislodge the earwax blockage.
Simply just dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a small cup of lukewarm water or first just use some water without adding anything. In both cases it’s recommended to use distilled water to be sure that the water is clean and won’t cause further complications. You proceed to lay down or simply tilt your head so that the ear is turned upwards and squeeze or drip a few drops of the water into the ear canal using a cotton swab or a clean cloth. Do not insert the cotton swab. Wait three to five minutes in the same position, allowing the water to soften the wax, then simply turn your head in the opposite direction so that the liquid drains out. Use a clean cloth to gently wipe the outer part of your ear and remove the earwax.

Hydrogen peroxide drops


Using ear drops is a common and convenient solution to get rid of your excess earwax. These products often contain an ingredient called hydrogen peroxide. As previously mentioned cerumen is the medical term for earwax and hydrogen peroxide is an earwax solvent or cerumenolytic in other terminology, which means it softens and dissolves earwax and helps remove any blockage. Various forms of hydrogen peroxide ear wax drops are used to remove ear wax. Carbamide hydroxide is common, it adds oxygen to the wax and creates air bubbles, which helps to soften the earwax. Follow the instructions provided with the product or consult with your doctor when using ear drops, it usually involves steps similar to using saline solution described before. Lying down or head tilted ear upward, squeeze the instructed number of drops into the ear canal. Stay still and allow the drops to work for 5 minutes, then drain the liquid and wipe the outer ear with a tissue or a clean cloth. The usage frequency is usually two to three times a day, for a period of up to a week. Using hydrogen peroxide drops usually has no negative side effects, but it can lead to some problems in cases of an ear infection or previous ear damage. That is the reason it is important to follow instructions provided with the product, consulting with a medical professional beforehand and seeking medical help without delay if complications do occur.

Ear irrigation

Ear irrigation is a method of earwax removal using tools like ear syringes or ear irrigators. There is a number of these products readily available at your local pharmacy and most online health item vendors. The process in question is similar to using saline solution or ear drops with an added advantage of using a gentle stream of water. This stream creates water pressure which helps to dislodge the wax build-up. Ear irrigator products commonly include disposable nozzle tips and basins to drain the liquid into for a hygienic and mess free clean-up.

While these are the most common methods of maintaining your ear hygiene and taking care of potential earwax build-ups, there are numerous other products available, like looped tools for manual removal and otoscopes equipped with removal tips.

Our ears naturally take care of the cleaning process by themselves, but people secreting more earwax than average sometimes experience problems. The methods listed above are the most usual ways of dealing with these problems, however, if there is any doubt how to proceed, or the symptoms are causing you discomfort and pain, do not hesitate to visit and consult with a medical professional.

You can find out what ear pain is here –

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