Wax is a normal product of the healthy ear canal. It minimises infections and protects the delicate skin of the ear canal. Wax would not normally expect to cause any symptoms at all. If your child has otherwise healthy ears and doesn't use hearing aids, wax is unlikely to cause any problems.
ENT surgeons often get asked about wax by worried parents. Usually it is because parents are concerned about hearing. If the hearing is a problem, the most likely diagnosis by far is Glue Ear. Yes, the child may well have wax, we all do and it is normal, but the wax is unlikely to be the cause of hearing problems.
What can cause Ear Wax problems?
There are some things that people do that can create wax problems. The worst thing is cotton buds use. The wax normally travels along the ear canal and out, but if you use cotton buds then the wax gets pushed in, instead of travelling out. Over time, this can cause compacted wax, which then can cause hearing problems. So remember, don't poke cotton buds into the ear canal.
Hearing aid use can also predispose to wax build up, in which case the audiology department will usually have facilities for wax removal.
If your child has had mastoid surgery then this also can be a cause; the nurse-led aural care clinic will usually be able to help.
Sometimes ENT doctors may wish to remove wax, to allows them to see the ear better.
Treatment of Ear Wax
Remember that usually ear wax is just there and normal, and doesn't need treatment.
If your child has otherwise healthy ears with no hearing aids or surgery, but you think wax build up is a problem, we suggest using drops to help soften it and help it come out. The simplest thing is the olive oil that you would normally use for cooking. A dropper can be bought on-line or from a pharmacy. Warm the drops in your hand before use. Ask you child to lie down with the affected ear uppermost, pull the ear slightly backwards and instil the drops. Ask your child to stay in that position for five minutes or so. If there is any oil spillage on sitting up, wipe that up with a tissue.
To treat wax impaction, we suggest 3 drops three times per day for 3-4 weeks. To stop wax build up, you may wish to use drops once per week as a preventative measure.
If you wish, you can also buy other ear drops over the counter designed for wax removal.
For wax impaction, your ENT clinic may offer removal using a mini hoover called microsuction. This sounds very noisy, but is a very safe and gentle way of suctioning the wax out of the ear. If your child can't tolerate this in clinic, a general anaesthetic may be offered.