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Is microsuction better than irrigation?

Microsuction is an ear wax removal technique that has grown in popularity in recent years. Once the preserve of ENT clinics, and only provided to those who had a specific need to keep their ears dry (e.g. those with perforated eardrums, or mastoid cavities), it’s now available to everyone, and much more affordable. Some private practitioners swear by it and will only perform microsuction, others still consider irrigation a useful procedure.

Irrigation is the method traditionally used by the practice nurse at GP surgeries for many years, until the strain placed on GP practices by the COVID pandemic led to many no longer being able to provide the service.

Essentially, irrigation involves the excessive ear wax being flushed out with warm water. It is normally painless, comfortable and problem-free. Problems occur when the temperature of the water is not correct, especially if it is not warm enough; or when water is directed at the eardrum at too high a pressure.

Additionally, irrigation should not be performed on anyone with a perforated eardrum, or mastoid cavity, or if they are prone to ear infections, and so it is vital that a comprehensive and relevant medical history is taken prior to any procedure taking place.

So is microsuction – which vacuums the ear wax out of the ear via a probe – a better, and safer procedure?

Sometimes. Not always.

Microsuction ensures that the ear remains dry, but some people have a dislike of the noise made by the microsuction unit. If tinnitus is an ongoing problem for the client, then it can be exacerbated (temporarily) by the suction process. Again – taking a comprehensive and relevant medical history is critical to choosing the right method.

At qb earcare, we take time to ask the right questions, and make sure that the client is happy with the proposed procedure, before we begin.

Both methods are safe, and both have their risks. Irrigation, providing the ear is suitable, and the wax is soft, is quite often a faster and more efficient way to get the wax out. But microsuction works better in other cases!

Since irrigation is perfectly safe for the vast majority of people, we irrigate frequently, and often use microsuction as well. We will use both methods on quite a number of people that we see, with their permission. Quite often irrigation, if it doesn’t bring the wax out completely by itself, has a softening and loosening effect, which makes subsequent microsuction easier, and quicker.

So both techniques have their place. If you have a strong preference for one method or the other, please do let us know that when you come in.

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