The ear canal is a passage that extends from the outer ear (or pinna) to the ear drum – it is approximately 2.50cm long in adults. It is narrow, curved and difficult to access. It may get blocked with wax, skin and debris from infections or foreign objects.
Blocking of the ear leads to:
- Decreased hearing
- Pain in the ear canal
- Blocked sensation
Microsuctioning allows us to examine the ear canal and the ear drum in detail. It allows safe cleaning and assurance about the wellbeing of the ear. Suctioning can be done safely in people with perforated ear drums, operated ear cavities and in children with grommets.
The procedure usually takes 15-20 minutes. Once in a comfortable position, a microscope is used to view the canal and a small suction cannula is used to cleanse. Occasionally saline drops are stilled into the ear canal to help soften the wax or debris. The suctioning creates a vacuum cleaner-like sound in the ear. Sometimes forceps or a small probe is used to help remove hard wax plugs or a foreign body.
Touching the ear canal may cause coughing in some people and the cold air across the ear drum may cause dizziness lasting for a few seconds after the procedure. The dizziness is self-limiting.
Ear syringing done for ear cleansing is not a recommended procedure. It entails squirting water into the ear canal to help remove the cause of the blockage. It is a blind procedure and thus may lead to injury of the ear canal, perforation of the ear drum and infection. It may also not be successful in removing the wax or debris, pushing it further in towards the ear drum.
Common Ear Canal Problems
This is made from modified sweat glands in the ear canal. Wax migrates outwards at the same rate as your finger nail grows. Using ear muffs, ear plugs, hearing aids and using cotton buds tends to move the wax inwards and prevents it from falling outside. This leads to a build-up of wax in the canal.
This is infection of the canal wall leading to debris and pus in the ear canal. The wall is swollen and painful. It is caused by swimming in infected water, use of cotton buds, keys of matchsticks to clean the ear canal, following ear syringing and in people suffering from eczema.
This is seen in all ages, from children putting small objects in their ears to hearing aid parts being left behind in the ear canal. Microsuction allows good visualisation and use of both hands to remove the object.
Each person has individual needs as far as suctioning is concerned. People wearing ear muffs or hearing aids do require frequent ear suctioning.