Ear wax build-up is a common problem, which can be characterised by having earache, reduced hearing, dizziness, itchiness, and tinnitus (a sensation of noise in the ear). Thankfully there are several ear drops for wax removal, available over the counter in pharmacies and supermarkets. This post summarises options for ear wax removal with popular ear drop products available in the UK, focusing on the use and age restrictions for each product.
Ear drops for wax removal: where to buy
Ear drops for wax removal can be purchased from pharmacies as well as from supermarkets. Sale of some products is restricted to pharmacies only; however, as you will learn from this post, there is no difference in product formulation between pharmacy-only products (P) and products available for self-selection.
Options for Ear drops for wax removal
1. Olive oil ear drops for ear wax removal
Olive oil ear drops offer a natural and gentle method of ear wax removal. Olive oil drops usually contain extra virgin olive oil as the sole ingredient. Olive oil may help to loosen and soften the ear wax.
Some brands of olive oils ear drops come in a stand-alone bottle; others are supplied with a dropper to allow easy application.
Who can use olive oil drops?
Children over 1 can usually use olive oil drops as well as adults, and the elderly.
How to use olive oil ear drops?
Care should be taken when olive oil ear drops are used for wax removal.
If a dropper is used, patients should avoid touching the ear with the dropper.
- The head should be tilted, leaving the affected ear facing upwards.
- 2-3 drops should be placed inside the ear with the use of the dropper. Olive oil drops should be left for a few minutes.
- Clean the surface of the outer ear with a tissue.
- Olive oil ear drops should be applied 1-2 times a day until the wax is removed. It may take up to 14 days to remove the build-up of the wax.
Olive oil drops may be recommended to soften the ear wax before the removal of the wax by a doctor or nurse.
Can you use olive oil drops in pregnancy?
Olive oil ear drops which contain only olive oil as a sole ingredient can be used in pregnancy.
Are olive oil ear drops effective in ear wax removal?
Cochrane researchers analysed information from clinical trials on the use of oil in ear wax removal with ten studies included in their investigation. They concluded there is not enough high-quality evidence to make a certain conclusion on the benefits of the use of oil ear drops. Cochrane pointed out that the application of olive oil drops may help to remove the earwax as compared to no treatment at all. This was deducted from the results of one study only (Aaron at al, 2018).
2. Olive oil ear spray for wax removal
Olive oil is available in spray formulation, sold under the brand name of Earol. Spray formulation of olive oil is designed to ease the application process.
3. Cerumol ear drops
Cerumol ear drops are advertised as dual-action product formulated to break down the ear wax gently and fast. Cerumol can be purchased from pharmacies and supermarkets. Pharmacies may be able to order Cerumol ear drops on an individual basis for same or next day delivery from leading pharmaceutical suppliers. Cerumol range includes Cerumol ear drops and Cerumol Extra Virgin Olive Oil drops, which contain extra virgin olive oil only.
Who can use Cerumol drops?
Cerumol ear drops are licensed for adults, elderly, and children over one year of age. Children under five years of age should have a diagnosis of ear wax problem before the treatment with Cerumol ear drops.
How to use Cerumol drops?
As with other products, care should be taken when using a supplied dropper to instill the drops.
Five drops should be instilled into the ear and allowed to reach the eardrum by keeping the head tilted. Repeat twice daily for the recommended treatment duration of 3 days.
Can you use Cerumol ear drops in pregnancy?
Pregnant patients should seek medical advice before using Cerumol ear drops.
4. Sodium bicarbonate ear drops
Sodium bicarbonate ear drops offer an alternative, gentle treatment for ear wax removal. Sodium bicarbonate drops soften and slowly dissolve the wax.
Sodium bicarbonate ear drops are sold as non-branded or as branded products, such as Otex Sodium Bicarbonate ear drops.
Who can use sodium bicarbonate ear drops?
Sodium bicarbonate ear drops are recommended for adults and children over 1 year of age; however, children under the age of 5 should be diagnosed with ear wax problem by a doctor, before treatment is commenced.
How to use sodium bicarbonate ear drops for wax removal?
Sodium bicarbonate ear drops come in a small bottle with dropper. As with olive oil drops, care should be taken when placing the drops inside the eardrum, avoiding the contact between the ear canal and the dropper.
- The head should be tilted, leaving the affected ear facing upwards.
- 3-4 drops should be placed into the affected ear(s) twice a day for up to 7 days.
- Sodium bicarbonate drops should be left in the ear for a few minutes.
- Wipe away any excess of the drops.
The nurse or the doctor can give you instructions on the use of the drops, therefore follow their advice in the first instance. Check also for specific recommendations and age restrictions included with each product.
5. Otex and Otex Express Ear Drops
Otex ear drops contain urea hydrogen peroxide 5% as the active ingredient. Otex ear drops help to remove hardened wax from the ear(s). Urea hydrogen peroxide breaks the ear wax into small pieces, which blocks the ear canal.
Otex Ear Drops is pharmacy-only product, which means they can only be purchased from a pharmacy, including online chemists.
What is the difference between Otex and Otex Express Ear Drops?
Both products contain the same active ingredient urea hydrogen peroxide 5%. The main difference comes from product availability and age restrictions for the use.
|Product||Otex Ear drops|
Otex Express Ear Drops
|Pharmacy-only product, available behind the counter.||General sale item can be purchased in supermarkets, shops, and pharmacies. Product is available for self-selection.|
|Although no minimum age is recommended the producer, advise to seek medical advice from a doctor is given before this product is used in children, as it is not common for young children to experience wax build-up.||Not recommended in children under 12 years old unless recommended by a doctor.|
How to use Otex or Otex Express Ear Drops?
Otex ear drops come in the form of a plastic bottle with a dropper. Product information leaflet advises to instill up to 5 drops into the affected ear(s) once or twice daily for 3 to 4 days. Ear drops should be left in the ear for a few minutes with the head tilted. The excess of the product should be wiped away.
Cotton wool should not be used to plug the ears.
Can you use Otex ear drop in pregnancy?
Otex can be used during pregnancy.
6. Otex Express Combi Pack
Otex range of products includes Otex Express Combi Pack available from pharmacies or for self-selection from supermarkets and other shops. This product contains Otex Express ear drops and a bulb syringe, which is used to help remove wax from the ear canal with water, after the application of the drops.
How to use Otex Express Combi Pack?
The same instructions apply for the use of the ear drops as with Otex Express product. The additional step involves the use of a bulb syringe. It is recommended to:
- Wash the sink basin with warm water.
- Bulb syringe should be squeezed and allow to re-inflate with the nozzle placed inside the water.
- The nozzle of the bulb syringe should be placed by the opening of the ear canal and not further.
- The ear canal should be rinsed with the water by squeezing the bulb.
Read product information leaflet for more information related to the product.
Which drops for ear wax removal are the best?
Overall, when looking at the available evidence, there is weak evidence to support the use of wax softeners in the clearance of the ear wax (Wright, 2015). Patients with persistent symptoms or patients who failed to respond to over the counter treatment may be recommended ear irrigation by a GP or nurse. Ear irrigation is considered to be effective in the removal of the wax. This procedure can be done without prior use of ear softening drops, however NICE guidelines recommends using drops 3-5 days as first-line treatment to reduce the need for irrigation (if possible) and to reduce the extra force that may be needed to remove wax during the procedure (NICE, 2016).
What is your experience with ear drops for wax removal? What do you recommend? Please leave a comment.
How long do ear drops take to clear wax?
Some products may be quicker in ear wax removal then others. It usually takes few days to clear the wax. For best results, please follow the directions on the use of ear drops found in product information leaflet of the product or directions from the prescriber.
How often should I put olive oil in my ears?
Olive oil ear drops are usually applied twice a day. Olive oil drops should be left in the ear(s) for few minutes to allow softening of the ear wax.
Aaron K, Cooper TE, Warner L, Burton MJ. Ear drops for the removal of ear wax. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD012171. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012171.pub2. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD012171.pub2 Accessed on 29/04/2020
NICE (2016). Earwax. Available at: https://cks.nice.org.uk/earwax#!scenario Accessed on 30/04/2020
Wright Tony (2015). Ear wax BMJ. Available at https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3601 Accessed on 30/04/2020