Ear Wax Cleaning

Ear Wax Cleaning

Ear Wax (or cerumen) is a normal and natural bodily substance produced in your ear canals.  It is designed to be there to help protect your body.  Like most things in this life, though, moderation is crucial.  If there becomes too much ear wax, then there’s a problem.  Luckily, Ear Wax removal is one of the many services offered at Visalia Hearing Center.

While there are several methods to remove Ear Wax, such as flushing with water (an “ear lavage”), using a suction device or the infamous ear candle, Visalia Hearing Center uses the mechanical removal method.  Under light and magnification, Dr. Finnegan uses curettes, forceps and speculums, to remove the ear wax as gently as possible.  In our opinion, this is the safest, cleanest and most effective method of ear wax removal.  This method does require the highest level of skill and Dr. Finnegan has over a decade of experience in this procedure to hone his skills.

FAQs about Ear Wax Cleaning

Should I use Q-Tips (AKA “cotton swabs”) to clean my ears?

This is a hotly debated topic.  There are risks associated with Q-Tip usage.  It is important for everyone to understand the risks associated with any decision prior to making that decision.  Q-Tip risks include potentially removing some ear wax but pushing even more deeper (i.e., two steps forward and three steps back) or, more significantly, accidentally rupturing an ear drum.  While the likelihood of an ear drum rupture is quite rare, it can happen, and one must assume this risk every time one chooses to use a Q-Tip.  If one does not wish to assume this risk, then don’t use a Q-Tip. 

That was informative but what I really want to know is if Dr. Finnegan uses Q-Tips to clean his ears?

Yes, Dr. Finnegan uses a Q-Tip after every shower.  He does not like the feeling of wet ear.   However, Dr. Finnegan fully understands that if something bad were to happen while he was using a Q-Tip, there would be only one person to blame…himself.

Is ear wax removal painful?

Most of the time removal of ear wax is pain free.  However, there are nerve endings in the ear canal and some individuals may have a cough strong reflex when the doctor is working in your ear.  When the ear wax is very hard and/or it’s caked onto the ear canals walls, this is when ear wax removal has the potential to be uncomfortable.

How long does an ear wax removal appointment take?

Appointment times can last from 2 – 20 minutes with the average time about 8 minutes.  Typically, the deeper the ear wax, the longer it will take to safely remove.

Does health insurance cover ear wax cleaning services?

Like the answer to most insurance-based questions, the answer is: it depends on each individual policy.  While ear wax removal is part of the State of California’s Scope of Practice for Audiologists, Medicare does not reimburse Audiologists for these services.  Visalia Hearing Center accepts cash, check or credit card for ear wax cleaning services.  If you wish for your insurance to potentially cover this service, you must go through your proper insurance channels.

What if the Audiologist is not able to remove the ear wax during my appointment?

Dr. Finnegan is able to remove ear wax from approximately 90% of the patients who request ear wax cleaning services.  If he is not able to remove the ear wax, the patient will not be charged for the office visit.  In this event, Dr. Finnegan recommends seeing an Otolaryngologist/ENT specialist (ear surgeon). 

Are there over-the-counter (OTC) solutions to remove ear wax?

Unfortunately, there are no magical ways to remove ear wax.  However, there are some at home options that sometimes work (and sometimes don’t!). The most common OTC method is Debrox, which is an ear wax softener.  After using this softening agent, you are then asked to flush your own ear with warm water. 

What about using an ear candle?

Ear candling is one reported method to remove ear wax.   The theory is that the candle will burn up all the oxygen in the ear canal creating a vacuum.  This vacuum will then “suck” the ear wax out.  However, Visalia Hearing Center does not know of any professional organization that recommends this method.  We certainly don’t.  Why would anyone want an open flame and hot candle wax purposedly placed in/close to one’s head?  No thanks!