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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Earwax forms naturally inside your ears and acts as a defensive barrier, protecting the ears from harmful substances and bacteria. It usually moves out of the ears gradually by the action of chewing and is harmless. However, sometimes it can build up and block the ears.

Doctor’s advice

What about cotton buds?

There is a rule in medicine that nothing smaller than your elbow should be placed in the ear – it's self-cleaning, and you can cause damage. So, avoid anything to clean inside the ear, including water or cotton buds.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Excess earwax removal treatment is readily available at the pharmacy. Healthwords pharmacists recommend first trying a milder treatment such as olive oil ear drops, which will help to soften the wax, encouraging it to come out gradually.

For harder or more stubborn wax, stronger treatments such as sodium bicarbonate ear drops, or Otex, can break down the wax more aggressively. If this fails after a trial of 2 weeks, the next step might be ear syringing or micro-suction.

When should I see my doctor?

If there is no improvement after a week or two of treatment, it is sometimes necessary to have the ears syringed and flushed out at the doctor's office. This can usually be done by your practice nurse, and it is likely you will not need to see your doctor for it. Depending on your doctor's practice, it may be done via suctioning the wax out or flushing it out with water.

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work if you have earwax.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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