Tired of earwax? Then you might be tempted by a device that, it claims, can remove it in just 35 seconds.
Impacted earwax, a buildup of dead skin, oil, and dirt, can be painful and can cause ear pain, hearing loss, and infection.
The OtoSet Ear Cleaning System, which looks and wears like headphones, is designed to remove it by gently spraying water into the ear canal before sucking out the waxy debris, according to SafKan Health, the US developer (patients are first given ear drops to remove wax). soften).
The OtoSet itself consists of an adjustable silicone headband with two containers in each earpiece: a clear plastic container of distilled water and a disposable collection container.
There is a disposable earplug in each piece – this allows the water to flow into the ear canal. You can choose to clean one or both ears by pressing a button on the side of the device to activate the automated cleaning process.
The dirty water and wax are then removed by micro-suction and discharged into the collection chamber.
The OtoSet ear cleaning system, which looks and wears like a pair of headphones, is designed to remove it by gently spraying water into the ear canal before sucking out the waxy debris, according to SafKan Health
OtoSet is the first ear cleaning device to receive a green light from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after demonstrating its safety and effectiveness in clinical trials in America.
This may sound like welcome news to the estimated 2.3 million people in the UK who need professional wax removal every year.
Older people are particularly susceptible to degraded earwax because earwax gets drier with age. Other factors that can cause this include naturally producing a lot of wax and having narrow or hairy ear canals.
But could the OtoSet headphones – currently only available in US clinics – really help?
In fact, experts argue that it’s often best to leave our ears alone.
“There’s an old quote among ear doctors to put nothing smaller than your elbow in your ear, and as a rule, that’s still the case,” says Matthew Trotter, a consultant ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon at University Hospitals. Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust.
‘We always advise people not to mess with their inner ear.
?Using earplugs or anything else to poke your ear can easily do a lot of damage because it’s a delicate area.
‘Moreover, a button does not remove the affected earwax, but usually pushes it further in. It can significantly exacerbate any existing problem.?
Sophy Magee, an audiologist at Boots Hearingcare, adds that wax plays an important role in keeping the ears clean – and attempts to remove it increase the risk of infection.
“Earwax is produced by the ceruminous and sebaceous glands that sit in the outer third of the ear canal,” she explains.
‘It acts as a natural barrier for the ear canal to trap things like dust, dirt and bacteria. So if we produce a normal amount, which most of us do, we don’t need to get rid of it. The skin in your ears grows outward from the center of your eardrum – this is called epithelial migration and will naturally carry some excess wax out of your ear canal, which will then fall away.’
However, some people produce larger amounts of wax that aren’t removed as effectively, says Mr. Trotter.
The wax then tends to be affected. This can happen after ear surgery, “but sometimes it’s just one of those unfortunate things,” he adds.
Mr Trotter recommends seeing your GP if you have earwax problems: ‘They will usually examine your ears and then suggest ear drops, which can often solve the problem.’
Sophy Magee adds that ‘the worst thing you can do is poke around – you might even burst your eardrum.
“Often we look in someone’s ear and see wax in the inner two-thirds of the ear canal, so we know right away that someone has sniffed because it’s not produced there.”
There’s a safe approach you can try at home, she says. “We recommend medical-grade olive oil, available from a pharmacy ? you use a dropper to put two or three drops in one ear at a time, or use it as a spray.” This softens the wax, allowing it to come out naturally.’
Mr Trotter thinks the OtoSet, which costs clinicians ?2,230, could be a good addition in some clinical settings.
“Two small studies were done by the maker and quite a few patients who have used it since then have not identified any particular problems with it,” he says.
“I think it’s a really interesting device and seems to be an upgrade from the way wax was removed from the ear canal with a syringe,” adds Mr Trotter, referring to the old practice of putting water into the ear canal with a large syringe .
In 2018, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said ears should no longer be used due to safety concerns; instead, people should try over-the-counter ear drops first.
‘If this fails, electronic irrigation with constant pressure water or ideally microsuction – the gold standard for earwax removal – is recommended,’ says Mr Trotter.
?Microsuction is performed by a clinician looking into the ear canal with a microscope so they can see exactly what they are doing. Then a suction probe is used to suck out the excess wax,” he says.
“But in a non-ENT environment, such as a High Street audiologist clinic, I imagine this OtoSet device would safely remove the wax.”
SafKan Health is now working on a consumer version, but Mr. Trotter is wary: “The problem I would see with this is that it assumes it’s being used to remove wax buildup, which may not be the cause of the symptoms, which may require examination by a specialist.’