People with impacted ear wax in the UK are struggling to hear and need local NHS removal services, a study has found.
The University of Manchester-led study – Ear wax management in primary care: what the busy GP needs to know – was published in the British Journal of General Practice on Friday.
Researchers surveyed 500 adults who used NHS ear wax removal services and nine in 10 said their hearing difficulty was ‘at least moderately bothersome’.
Six in 10 reported it to be ‘very/extremely bothersome’.
But more than eight in 10 participants reported an immediate improvement after the earwax was removed, the study found.
The study was supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.
NIHR is funded by the Government and it funds health and social care research.
It comes as “more and more people face the prospect of ear wax removal services being discontinued at their GP surgeries”, the university noted.
More than two million people a year need ear wax removal treatment in the UK but many GP surgeries are no longer routinely offering it, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) charity has said.
The university researchers also noted that up to 44% of care home residents with dementia suffer from troublesome ear wax.
Ear wax is a normal substance made by the body to clean, protect and keep ears healthy but blockages can affect people’s ability to communicate and hear, they said.
They added that impacted ear wax can also cause discomfort and tinnitus, a ringing in the ears.
Kevin Munro, professor of audiology at the University of Manchester, said: “If anyone tries simulating the effect of impacted wax by walking around with their fingers plugging their ears for a few days, they’ll soon realise that it is a serious issue.
“The recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) could not be clearer – NHS ear wax removal services should be provided in the community.
“There are multiple reasons why GP surgeries are ceasing to provide ear wax removal services.
“The traditional method of syringing ears is no longer recommended but there are newer and safer methods for flushing wax out of the ear.
“There is also a misunderstanding that using ear drops to soften the wax will be enough to resolve the problem but there is little evidence to support this claim.
“Once the wax has been softened, it needs to be flushed out of the ear or vacuumed up, neither of which can be done at home without expertise.