When it comes to managing cerumen impaction, healthcare professionals have traditionally relied on cerumenolytics (softening agents) and ear irrigation - both of which come with side effects.
Now, a safer, more effective and advanced technique - micro suction - is emerging as a more precise and patient-friendly alternative.
In this article, we'll delve into the benefits of cerumen micro-suction versus traditional ear irrigation, shedding light on why this method is becoming the preferred choice for both practitioners and patients.
Explanation of Aural Micro-suction Procedure
Micro-suction is an advanced and non-invasive technique designed for the precise removal of impacted ear wax. Utilizing a device with a low-pressure suction system, this method offers a controlled and efficient approach. The process involves a thorough examination of the ear canal through a speculum, using a head worn Converged Binocular Optical system that operates like a microscope and allows both eyes to clearly see deep into the ear. The view is further enhanced with LED illumination, creating a shadow free view of the cavity.
Once problematic cerumen has been identified the micro-suction procedure is explained to the patient and commenced, with a suction tube placed through the speculum and into the ear to gently and carefully remove the cerumen.
Benefits of Micro-suction Vs Ear Irrigation
Micro-suction offers numerous advantages over ear irrigation, also known as ear syringing. These include the ability for the practitioner to monitor the removal process in real time, ensuring targeted and safe removal, as opposed to syringing, which does not allow the clinician to visualise inside the ear.
Ear syringing also poses risks due to the use of water, which can lead to infection or inflammation - particularly in those with a history of ear surgery or infections. Water flow and pressure can also exacerbate perforated eardrums, potentially re-rupturing the tympanic membrane and resulting in water entering the middle ear.
Furthermore, in the case of foreign bodies in the ear canal, irrigation can cause additional complications by pushing the object further into the ear.
Patients undergoing the gentle and non-invasive micro suction are further benefited in that there is no need for wax softeners to be used prior, meaning the procedure can offer immediate relief and a vast improvement in their ability to hear - with no need for further appointments or use of ear drops.
Prevalence of cerumen impaction
For the majority of the population, the ears are self-cleaning and don't require professional ear cleaning. The ear canal produces earwax that helps to protect the ear by trapping dust and other small particles, and also has antibacterial properties. The earwax naturally moves from the eardrum to the ear opening where it dries and falls out.
However, in some cases, ear wax can accumulate and become impacted, which may require professional ear cleaning.
The prevalence of ear wax impaction in the population varies depending on age, race, and occupation. According to some studies, approximately 6 to 10 per cent of adults experience ear wax impaction. The likelihood is much higher in older adults, with estimates that between 14 to 29 per cent of adults over the age of 65 are impacted by ear wax blockages.
Some studies have reported that ear wax impaction is more common in certain ethnic groups, with higher rates reported in Asians, Africans, and African Americans.
Those who work in mining and construction may have a higher risk of ear wax impaction due to exposure to dust and other irritants, while those with conditions including Down's syndrome, eczema and psoriasis are also known to have increased levels of impaction.
Anecdotally, the growing use of in-ear headphones and ear plugs is also contributing to ear wax issues in the wider population.
It's important to note that the prevalence of ear wax impaction is likely vastly under reported, as many people may not seek medical attention for it or attempt to resolve the issue themselves - which can cause further damage.
The frequency at which people require ear cleaning and ear wax removal depends on individual needs and circumstances but in general, it’s recommended that healthy adults only need to have their ears cleaned if they experience symptoms of ear wax impaction, such as hearing loss, aural fullness, ear pain, or ringing in the ears.
Those with a history of ear wax impaction, and those with a hearing aid or wear earplugs, may need to have their ears cleaned every six to 12 months.
Patients are highly discouraged to attempt to remove ear wax themselves - with cotton swabs, hairpins or other objects, which can all push the wax further into the ear and cause damage to the eardrum. Those who suspect they have ear wax impaction should seek professional help from an audiologist or an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT).
Benefit to community – availability of service
Increased availability of community-based ear micro-suction services would provide significant benefits to the community and health industry.
Chief among these is reduced wait times; currently patients face months-long waits for ENT appointments, whereas micro suction clinics - such as Clear Ears Perth - now offer same-day and after hours appointments with no referral needed.
Those with mobility issues, who have difficulty travelling to hospitals or who live in remote or regional areas would also benefit from access to community-based clinics.
Community-based ear wax removal services are in many cases more affordable than private ENT or hospital based services, and also serve to reduce the burden on hospitals and ENT clinics while at the same time allowing them to focus on more complex cases.
Regular, easy access to community-based services can also improve patient outcomes by preventing complications such as ear infections, hearing loss or recurrent wax impaction.
Exclusive Micro-Suction Ear Wax Removal Services
For those struggling with ear wax impaction, specialized care can make all the difference, and audiology clinics which focus exclusively on micro suction stand out as being safe and highly effective. The benefits of being treated at a clinic dedicated to micro suction include gaining access to highly trained and experienced audiologists who are experts in this technique and who provide a precise, safe and quick service. Clear Ears Perth is the sole Audiology clinic in Perth exclusively dedicated to the manual removal of cerumen using micro-suction. Many specialized clinics also offer same-day appointments, providing immediate relief for individuals experiencing discomfort due to ear wax impaction. This quick turnaround - further enhanced by the fact no preparation such as ear wax softeners are involved - minimizes the duration of symptoms and allows for a streamlined process.
As healthcare professionals seek methods that prioritize patient safety and satisfaction, micro-suction stands out as a patient-friendly and effective approach to cerumen removal. The shift toward micro-suction reflects a commitment to providing optimal care while enhancing the overall experience for both practitioners and patients alike.
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