Of the many health issues that have been difficult to resolve over the past 18 months, keeping your ears clean and free from earwax may not seem like the most urgent.
Yet for the estimated 10 million Britons who suffer from excessive earwax buildup, the problem isn’t just uncomfortable or unsightly. Too much earwax has been linked to hearing loss, tinnitus, dizziness, and even cognitive decline.
Affecting over 30% of older people, according to researchers at the University of Connecticut in 2020, the wax that completely blocks the ear canal is not something that can always be treated at home.
But even now, as the world is opening up again, anyone who could have hoped to book their first post-Covid ear cleaning will be in shock. In many areas cleaning the ears with syringe water is no longer considered a ‘basic service’ that GPs must offer on the NHS, Health Minister Edward Argar said in the fall latest. If too much wax was linked to hearing loss, an audiology referral is potentially the only option.
The National Institute for Health and Excellence in Care (NICE), the government’s watchdog, advises general practitioners’ offices that they can use electronic irrigators or suction devices for wax buildup , adding in its guidelines that if this fails repeatedly, the patient may be referred to “a service specializing in ear care or an ear, nose and throat service”.
But what can you do if your local clinical commissioning group doesn’t want to offer it – or, worse yet, you can’t leave your home for the experiment due to protection issues around Covid or just the infirmities of old age?
While there are already private hearing clinics that you can visit, a new operation called Auris Ear Care went one step further and launched a home-delivered ear cleaning service: a DeliverEar, if you prefer.
Eager to try it, after being promised it would be like a micro spa for my delicate seashells, I was able to book Dr Riaz Rampuri to come see me in Hampshire. Its regular routes are mainly based in London, but the Auris team will travel further if the expenses are covered; in the long run, they expect to offer the service much more widely across the country.
Dr Rampuri arrived suitably equipped with PPE with a small bag of equipment. All he needs is a cup of water (to wash off the wax from his gear) and a power source so his miniature suction tools can work alongside a light. cheers for the inspection.
He explained to me that earwax is not really wax in the sense of a candle, but a waxy substance called earwax that binds with dust and debris. Fun Fact: Wearing headphones for just an hour increases bacteria in your ear 700-fold.
Normally, the ears are self-cleaning when the wax naturally moves along a circular path exiting the ear. But for those whose genes haven’t provided a decent self-cleaning mechanism, the wax has nowhere to go. Add dust and it clogs the passage.
The snail-shaped cochlea and semicircular canals of the inner ear and the tiny bones of the middle ear (the anvil, hammer, and stirrup), all essential for hearing and balance, are not directly affected. But the wax prevents sound waves from reaching the eardrum, and the pressure caused by the wax blocked on the eardrum – from the outside – prevents it from bending and moving in a natural way. This is what can cause hearing loss, in particular.