ear wax removal by microsuction using a microscope
ZEISS microscope commonly used in Microsuction

What is Ear Wax Removal By Microsuction?

Earwax cleaning and debris removal by Microsuction involves an Ear Nurse using light and a microscope to view inside your ear canal.

Upon viewing, a thin suction tube is used to vacuum up ear wax and/or debris. Instruments like a curette may also be used for manual earwax cleaning. Your Ear Nurse will expertly pluck ear wax or debris from your ear. 

The microscope commonly used by registered nurses at Ear Health is the OPMI pico from ZEISS and other similar models. This surgical grade microscope provides expert magnification and illumination for ear, nose and laryngeal procedures typically performed by Otolaryngologists (otherwise known as ear, nose, and throat specialists or ENTs).

The 10 Steps of Ear Cleaning by Microsuction

The aim of the ear suction procedure, called Microsuction, is to quickly and gently clean the ear canal of earwax and other debris. 

There are generally ten steps in the procedure and it usually takes fifteen to twenty minutes to complete.

  1. During your first visit you may be asked about your medical history relevant to the procedure.
  2. Your Ear Nurse will explain the steps involved.
  3. Please ask any questions you may have.
  4. You will be asked to recline or lie flat and remain very still.
  5. The nurse will look into your ear canal using a microscope or surgical loupe.
  6. The nurse will direct vision and light using a small cone placed in your ear.
  7. A thin metal tube attached to a suction unit will be placed in your ear canal.
  8. Once turned on the suction will make a windy noise.
  9. Earwax and debris will be gently and carefully removed.
  10. Your nurse might use forceps, probes and other equipment if necessary.

During the entire procedure you are free to talk with your Ear Nurse. 

What Is the Ear Wax Removal Experience Like?

People often describe the Microsuction experience as light tickling of the ear canal with windy, squeaky, popping sounds.

For most people, the ear cleaning by Microsuction experience is comfortable and painless. Often it’s a huge relief as the blocked feeling (occlusion) of your ear canal disappears.

In rare circumstances, earwax cleaning by Microsuction may at times be a little uncomfortable. Particularly if your ear canal is sensitive or inflamed due to infection. If you feel uncomfortable at any time during the Microsuction procedure, please let the nurse know so he or she can ensure everything is okay.

You may feel dizzy momentarily if cold air comes into contact with your eardrum during Microsuction. The dizzy feeling will pass in a few moments as your eardrum warms up again to normal body temperature.

A light touch of your ear canal during the procedure might cause you to feel like coughing. Although uncommon, this is completely normal and is sometimes referred to as the Arnold nerve reflex. The auricular branch of the vagus nerve (or Arnold’s nerve) is located in your ear canal and when physically stimulated in some people it may cause an ear-cough reflex.

What Is the Difference Between Ear Syringing and Microsuction?

Ear cleaning by an ear syringe is generally considered an inferior procedure to Microsuction. The key difference is syringing uses water pressure to blast out ear wax and debris, while Microsuction uses an air vacuum to suck out ear wax and debris.

At Ear Health the use of a microscope to inspect your ear before Microsuction is also a clear advantage. During this examination, any potential concerns such as a perforated eardrum or the presence of an ear infection can be more easily identified under magnification.

The ear syringing or irrigation of the ear procedure has been described as early as 1st century AD by Aulus Cornelius Celsus in De Medicina, one of the best sources concerning medical knowledge in the Roman world. Celsus was mainly concerned with the cleaning of discharge from the ear and removing foreign bodies from the external ear canal.

In 1821 French Otologist, Itard first described irrigating the ear with a syringe to remove hard wax. Soon after Itard’s publication ear syringes were produced and described by:

  • Beck in Freiburg, Germany, in 1827
  • Fabrizi in Modena, Italy, 1839
  • Schmalz in Dresden, Germany, 1846.
By contrast, ear Microsuction is a more recent 20th-century procedure and likely coincides with the introduction of suction machines used in medicine more widely.
In most modern hospitals, a vacuum is available from wall outlets located throughout the building. In the context of a hospital, suction may be used to clear a patient’s airway, facilitate breathing, or remove blood or other fluids from an area being operated on by a surgeon.
Microsuction began to be more widely accepted as the preferred procedure for ear wax removal in New Zealand in 1998 when The New Zealand medical journal published the article When not to syringe an ear.
The article reviewed the likely dangers of ear syringing and the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) Medical Misadventure Unit’s report of claimed injuries due to syringing over 17 months. During that time syringing claims accounted for about one-quarter of the total claims received by the ACC ENT Medical Misadventure Committee.

Syringing also carries some inherent complications and adverse effects may be more common than with Microsuction. Perforation of the eardrum, swimmer’s ear, damage to the external canal, pain, deafness, vertigo, and tinnitus are all possible complications with the syringing procedure.

How Often Do You Need Ear Wax Removal?

Every individual produces varying amounts and types of earwax. Therefore your Ear Nurse will ask you some questions and advise how often you should have your earwax removed.

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Est. 1995

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