A build up of wax in your ears may result in discomfort or deterioration in your hearing.

If you wear a hearing aid, excessive wax causes feedback,i.e. ‘whistling’ and poor sound control.


In the first instance you will be asked to use Sodium Bicarbonate ear drops for TWO WEEKS. This treatment will resolve a significant proportion of wax-related ear problems without the need for further intervention.

Instillation of eardrops:

Sodium bicarbonate (5%) drops are the initial treatment of choice are are available over the counter from your local pharmacist.

  1. Lie with your affected ear uppermost.
  2. Pull the pinna (outer ear) backwards and upwards 
  3. Instil 2-3 drops of  sodium bicarbonate into the ear canal and massage the tragus (the entrance to the ear).
  4. Remain lying for 5 minutes to allow the drops to penetrate the wax then sit up and wipe away any excess.
  5. Perform this routine THREE times per day for TWO weeks.


    Repeat for the opposite ear if required.

    If after two weeks there is no improvement, call the surgery and ask for a call back with one of the nurses who will assess the problem and advise as to what to do next.

    If the nurse decides you need an appointment for irrigation she will arrange this with you.

    You may not be suitable for irrigation if any of the following apply to you:

    • Previous surgery on your ears including mastoid surgery.
    • You have or have had grommets in the past.
    • You have had a perforated ear drum in the affected ear.
    • You have recently had an ear infection requiring treatment.
    • You have had problems following  previous episodes of irrigation.
    • You have tinnitus
    • You have wax build up in your ‘good ear’ i.e. you are deaf in the unaffected ear.
    • You are under 18 years of age.
    • You have pain or discharge in the affected ear.

    If the wax is not soft enough, the nurse may ask you to continue with the drops and return at a later date.



    As a preventive measure, to avoid wax build up, instil 2-3 drops of olive oil once or twice a week.

    Never insert anything into the ear canal to remove wax as this may impact it further. This includes cotton buds and Kirby grips!

    Consult your GP or Practice nurse if you experience any discharge or pain after the procedure or if problems persist.

    Call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergencyNHS ChoicesThis site is brought to you by My Surgery Website