What Is Microsuction Ear Wax Removal?

Author thumbnail Laura James  |  Published 08 February 2024  | Updated 16 May 2024  | 6 mins read

An ear doctor removing wax from a patient's ear.

Ear wax is a completely normal substance produced by your ears. It helps to protect your ear canals and can help prevent infection by trapping harmful bacteria, dirt, and other irritants. But if there is too much of it produced, or there is a build-up that doesn’t work its way out as normal, it can cause problems like hearing issues and earache. 

It’s important not to clean our ears ourselves, as this can make the problems worse. Microsuction is a common method of wax removal that is professionally used to help clear away excess wax. In this blog post, we’ll go over what microsuction is, how it works, and the benefits, as well as things to consider when choosing this method of wax removal. 

What is Ear Wax?

Ear wax is a completely normal substance produced by your ears. It is secreted from the sebaceous and ceruminous glands inside the hair follicles in your ear canal and is actually very useful as it helps to protect your ears from bacteria, dirt, and dust which can potentially cause infection.

Usually, it comes out on its own and causes no problems, however, some people may experience issues of wax build-up or excessive ear wax production. This can cause a variety of symptoms that can be disruptive to your everyday life which is why removing the excess wax can be beneficial. 

You might experience symptoms such as : 

  • Pain 
  • Itchiness
  • Blocked feeling/fullness
  • Hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus

However, it’s important to note that using home removal methods such as ear candles, cotton buds, or wax removal tools can be dangerous, make the issues worse, and potentially damage your ears and hearing. So if you’re concerned about your ear wax, always seek a professional. 

An audiologist explaining an ear issue to a patient.

What are the most common reasons for ear wax buildup?

Some common reasons for ear wax build-up include:

  • Age (usually over 55 years) 
  • Being more genetically predisposed
  • Having certain sized or shaped canals
  • Having a sticky or hard consistency of wax
  • Having hair in the ears 
  • Wearing ear plugs or hearing aids 
  • Having certain skin conditions in the ear (eczema etc)

Introduction to Microsuction

Microsuction is one of the most effective, safest, and gentle methods of ear wax removal. It uses a small suction probe and a machine to gently remove wax via suction. It also uses an endoscopic microscope, loupe or other type of microscopic device so that your clinician can see inside your ear and monitor everything that is happening in real time.

Because your clinician can see what they’re doing while performing the procedure, it differs from other methods such as irrigation as it is not a blind procedure. It also doesn’t use water and there is overall less mess involved. This means it’s generally safer, faster, and more comfortable for you.

Additionally, unlike with irrigation, you don’t need to use wax-softening drops 2 weeks before your appointment. Just 3-5 days is enough to help soften the wax so it’s a more convenient procedure as well. 

An audiologist using a video otoscope to take some pictures of a patient's ear canal.

How Microsuction Works

When preparing you for your microsuction appointment, your clinician will first talk you through the procedure itself, making sure you are well informed of the risks or side effects involved. You will also discuss your history together to make sure that the procedure is suitable for you. 

Your clinician will then perform a thorough examination of your ears and may use a video otoscope to take some pictures of your ear canal. Once they are happy that the procedure will be safe for you, they will get you into position in the procedure chair and insert a specula into your ear – this is a device which holds your ear canal open for the suction device. 

Next, they will insert the suction probe and safely remove the wax from your ear. The suction probe acts like a hoover, sucking up the wax and removing it from your ear safely. Once the wax has been cleared, they will inspect your ear once more before removing the specula, and taking another picture using a video otoscope to ensure all the wax build-up has been removed. They will then offer appropriate advice on best aftercare procedures.

Benefits of Microsuction

There are many reasons why microsuction is the gold standard for ear wax removal methods. 

  • Unlike irrigation or manual wax removal, the process isn’t blind – your clinician can see everything they’re doing with the microscopic device which means it’s safer and more comfortable than other methods.
  • This method is suitable for more people compared to other methods. For example, irrigation is not suitable for those with some pre -existing ear conditions.
  • There’s no need for any water (which irrigation uses) so there’s less mess and is generally more comfortable. 
  • Less preparation is needed for this procedure as softening drops are not always required. If they are needed, the drops are only needed to be used short term rather than for 2 weeks before your appointment.
A patient having microsuction wax removal.

How often is ear micro-suction required?

The effects of microsuction can last between 12 and 18 months for most people unless otherwise stated by your clinician. 

However, unless you are experiencing issues with your ears and your audiologist recommends microsuction removal, you should leave your ears alone. If you’re experiencing issues with your ears or hearing, make sure you speak to your GP or audiologist who can advise whether a microsuction procedure would be suitable for you. 

Risks and Considerations

Microsuction is the safest form of wax removal and the risk is very minimal but like with any procedure, there can be some risk involved. 

Potential risks include:

  • Dizziness 
  • Infection
  • Trauma to the ear
  • Noise induced hearing loss
  • Worsening of existing tinnitus
  • Temporary irrigation to throat/cough

However, these risks are rare and are the reasons why your clinician will go through your history prior to the procedure. This is to make sure that you are suitable to receive microsuction and are well informed on the risks or considerations.

Some reasons you might not be suitable for microsuction treatments include:

  • Troublesome vertigo
  • Hearing only in one ear if its the ear to be treated
  • Troublesome tinnitus if affected by noise exposure
  • Grommet in situ 
  • Cleft palate (even if repaired)

So make sure to tell your clinician everything about your hearing history.

Book an Appointment Today

If you’re interested in learning more about microsuction, want to book in for a procedure, or looking for more information on how it can help with your ear health, The Hearing Care Partnership offers comprehensive ear wax removal services in any of our locations across the UK. The procedure is delivered by our friendly, trained professionals.