Frequently Asked Questions
What is ear microsuction?
Ear microsuction is a technique for removing ear wax using a either a binocular operating microscope (which allows depth-perception and magnification) or specialised magnification loupes (similar to ones dentists and vascular/plastic surgeons use). This allows the clinician to look in the ear canal in great detail and use a very fine sterile suction device at low pressure to remove the wax. This process is not dissimilar to using a tiny vacuum cleaner inside the ear to remove the wax. Occasionally we may need to use other instruments to remove hard wax (such as Jobson Horne probes or micro forceps). Using microsuction means that we can visualise the external ear canal and its contents in great detail with minimal need to touch the earlobe.
What is ear wax?
Ear wax is a natural lubricant and antibacterial material produced by sebaceous glands within the ear canal. To read more about ear wax, its causes and treatment options, please follow this link.
Who will be performing my treatment?
Unlike most other ear microsuction clinics, our services are only performed by very experienced doctors (General Practitioners) with a specialist interest in ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) medicine. Dr Alex Fragoyannis, who leads this service, has over 15 years experience as a medical practitioner and has multiple specialist interests. All our doctors are on the GMC (General Medical Council) register and have achieved the Royal College of GPs qualification (the highest post graduate qualification available for GPs).
How often should one have microsuction to clear ear wax?
This varies between people. Some are unlucky and develop a lot of wax in their ear canals, with subsequent blockage (as often as every 3-6 months). The eardrum is a very sensitive and delicate structure and to syringe an ear successfully the water and some of the wax has to hit the eardrum. With microsuction we latch onto the wax and pull it out or if it is very soft it just gets sucked up the suction probe. Therefore microsuction can be carried out as often as is necessary. In patients with hearing aids, it is recommended to clear the ear canal every 4-6 months if there is a proneness to wax build-up impairing the function of the hearing aid.
Do I need to use softening ear drops prior to microsuction?
This is not essential although the prior useage of olive oil or sodium bicarbonate drops, in order to soften wax, can make the procedure faster and more comfortable. We can also use olive olive spray or sodium bicarbonate drops during the procedure to soften any hard wax if necessary.
Does microsuction hurt?
If ear microsuction is performed by an experienced clinician the procedure is unlikely to be painful. The main issue that patients notice is the sound of the suction probe which is reasonably quick to become accustomed to. We use extra fine tips for suction of wax very close to the drum, in order to avoid excessive exposure to suction noise.
If you suffer with infection of the outer ear canal then the infection itself could be uncomfortable and so microsuction of the infected ear canal can be painful. However, microsuction of infected debris and wax from the external ear canal is the most effective treatment for external ear infection (otitis externa), along with antibiotic drop useage if the cause is bacterial. You can help reduce some of the discomfort by taking your preferred painkiller an hour prior to attending your appointment.
Is microsuction safe?
Ear microsuction is the safest and the most effective procedure for examination and treatment of the ear when performed by experienced and well trained clinicians.
How long will it take?
In most cases it takes up to 15 minutes to perform microsuction on both ears. It is very important to keep as still as you can during the procedure. The ear canal is very small and it is in very close proximity to the eardrum. Even small movements can take the ear canal image out of focus and so prolong the appointment duration.
I have had ear surgery in the past, is microsuction suitable for me?
Yes. Ear microsuction is perfectly suited and highly recommended for patients who have had ear surgery in the past such as: mastoidectomy, repair of the ear drum, grommet insertion, stapedectomy and refashioning of the ear canal.
I have a perforated eardrum, can I have microsuction?
Yes. Ear microsuction is the safest method of cleaning ears with perforated ear drums. Patients who have perforated ear drums must not have their ears irrigated with water or syringed.
Can I fly after having ear microsuction?
Yes, you can fly after having ear microsuction (unless advised not to fly due to other medical reasons).
Are you covered by AXA/BUPA other health insurers?
Unfortunately insurers generally do not cover ear microsuction. Payment is made directly to the clinic at the end of the consultation by cash or credit or debit card.
What age children can have microsuction?
Young children often find ear microsuction more comfortable than ear irrigation or syringing.
We recommend that children should be:
• at least 10 years old
• able to lie still on the couch for 15 minutes or so
The procedure can be noisy when using the suction machine, but we can remove ear wax using other instruments and so make the procedure more acceptable if required.