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Ear wax removal: No longer a job just for ENT specialists

Tuesday 28th November 2017
Primary and community care professionals, not just ear, nose and throat specialists, should be able to remove ear wax build-ups, NICE states. Image: Obencem via iStock
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GPs and pharmacists will be able to remove ear wax for patients who are experiencing hearing problems due to a build-up in the future, rather than just ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists, as has previously been the case.

This is the ruling of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which has published new draft guidance calling for ear wax removal procedures to be made more accessible to patients in the UK.

Katherine Harrop-Griffiths, chair of the NICE guideline committee, commented: "Earwax build-up which is causing hearing problems should be managed in primary or community care."

Currently, individuals suffering from a build-up of ear wax have to wait for a referral to an ENT specialist to have this removed, which can take several weeks, prolonging patients' discomfort and affecting their ability to communicate with others in many cases.

NICE states that GPs and pharmacists should be able to perform ear irrigation on patients who have been prescribed drops for a period of up to five days to soften their ear wax instead of making them wait for a referral to an ENT specialist.

In addition, NICE has advised that primary and community care professionals can remove ear wax manually for patients, while microsuction can also be used, but only if the healthcare worker has received the correct training and the right equipment is being used.

Traditionally, ear syringing has often been the preferred method of ear wax removal, but this is not necessarily safe so should no longer be used, according to NICE.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the NICE centre for guidelines, stated: "Our draft recommendations can help improve care for people with hearing loss through better management of ear wax and referring people with symptoms to the right service at the right time."

Written by James Puckle

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