Home remedy for ear wax found effective

Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:40pm EDT
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By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The so-called bulb syringes commonly sold over the counter for ear wax removal may work as advertised -- at least for some people, a new study finds.

In most cases, ear wax buildup can be managed with home treatments that soften the wax -- like placing a few drops of mineral oil or glycerin in the ear, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Another at-home option is ear "syringing," which involves placing drops of a wax-softening solution into the ear, then using a rubber-bulb syringe to flush the ear with water and clear the wax.

Home bulb-syringe kits are widely available in the U.S. and many other countries. But there has been little research into whether they actually work -- and no studies on whether they allow people to avoid visits to the doctor for ear wax removal.

For the new study, UK researchers followed 237 patients who visited a clinic for ear wax removal. They were randomly assigned to either use a bulb syringe at home, or have their ears "irrigated" by a nurse at the clinic.

Over the next 2 years, 73 percent of the professionally treated patients returned to the clinic for a repeat treatment. That compared with 60 percent of those in the bulb-syringe group.

And on average, patients in the syringe group had almost half the number of clinic visits versus those given a professional treatment the first time.

Presumably, some patients in the syringe group had kept the device and were using it to self-treat at home, according to study leader Dr. Richard Coppin, of The Surgery in Hampshire.   Continued...