Protocol for Ear Irrigation

Updated November 21, 2016

Earwax is accumulated cerumen, which is comprised of secretions and sloughed-off dead skin. Earwax can be yellowish to dark brown in colour. While earwax is necessary to protect your ears from dirt and bacteria, impacted earwax can result in blockages. Earwax blockages may cause pain, discomfort and temporary loss of hearing. Irrigate the ear canal to clear out the earwax impaction.


The initial protocol for irrigating your ear involves softening the earwax. Your physician may recommend the use of an eye dropper and olive oil; only use an olive oil prescribed by your physician. Allow the olive oil to reach room temperature (about 37 degrees C) prior to application. Lie down with the impacted ear facing the ceiling. Pull your outer ear back and up to open the ear canal. Insert two drops of the olive oil into your ear canal.


Remain motionless for at least five minutes after applying the oil. Sit up and gently wipe any excess oil from your ear. Do not place any cotton in your ear; this can blot up any oil within your ear canal. According to ENT Nursing, you can safely use this method twice a day prior to the irrigation procedure.


Once you have softened the wax within your ear, your physician will follow through with a syringing procedure. The physician will use a soft bulb to squirt warm water into your ear canal. After the procedure, tip your affected ear to the side to help drain out excess water and any wax debris. It is normal to feel discomfort during an irrigation procedure; however, tell your physician if you feel any pain, as this indicates that the ear canal may have been perforated.


After the irrigation procedure, you will be more susceptible to ear infections. You may also experience a ringing in your ear. If you begin to feel dizzy, feel pain within your ear or develop discharge from your ear, notify your physician. After an irrigation procedure, refrain from using cotton swabs, as this can increase your chances for developing an ear infection.


Do not undergo an irrigation procedure if you've recently suffered from an ear infection or if you've undergone failed irrigation procedures. Irrigations are not meant to be performed if you have a perforated eardrum or if you have a grommet. A grommet is a tube that is surgically placed into your ear to help remove excess fluid build-up.

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