Microsuction is one of the safest methods to clean the ear. The nurse, doctor or audiologist treating you looks at your ear using a microscope. This makes it easier for us to assess and treat. A suction device is used to clean the ear without using any water. 

Who needs microsuction

Most people can have their ears treated at their GP practice. Wax, debris, foreign bodies (such as toys or food), or excess skin can be removed by spraying the ear with water (irrigation).

Microsuction is used for people who should not have water in their ears, especially if they have:

  • any serious complications from a previous irrigation with water
  • had a middle ear infection (otitis media) in the last 2 months
  • had any form of ear surgery, apart from grommets, (if they been in the ear for less than 2 years) and the patient is no longer having ENT (ear, nose and throat) appointments. This does not include people who have had ear correction surgery
  • a hole (perforation) in their ear drum or if there is a history of a mucous (thick) discharge from their ear in the last 2 years
  • a cleft palate (repaired or not)
  • a painful ear infection (acute otitis externa)

Pain during microsuction

The gentle suction device works in a similar way to a vacuum cleaner, and although it can be quite noisy, it is quick and painless. If the object is hard, a removal can be slightly uncomfortable. The person doing your procedure will always tell you if it’s going to be uncomfortable.

Microsuction can be less uncomfortable if a wax-softening spray is used for 3 nights before, and on the morning of, the appointment. You can buy a wax-softening spray, such as Earol® olive oil spray, at your local pharmacy.

Please bring the spray with you to the appointment. We might need to use it in your ears to soften the wax.

Looking after your ears


  • Use a dry tissue or alcohol-free baby wipes to clean around and behind your ear after showering or bathing.

Do not

  • Do not use cotton buds, or scratch or poke your ears. The ear canal naturally cleans itself and when you fiddle with the ears you are more likely to cause problems, such as a build-up of wax or an ear infection.
  • Do not use cotton buds, tissues or material to soak up any moisture in your ears. Let them dry naturally.
  • Do not to use any products that you have bought from a pharmacy or shop if there is a chance that your eardrum may have a hole in it (be perforated).

If your ears feel itchy, or you have had an ear infection, avoid getting water, soap or shampoo in the ear canal when you have a bath or shower. Use a piece of cotton wool about twice the size of your thumbnail. Coat it with white soft paraffin (which you can buy at a pharmacy), and put it at the entrance of each ear canal. Do not push the cotton wool down into the ear canal as it might be difficult to remove.

If you wear a hearing aid

Wash the hearing aid mould every day in warm, soapy water while you are having treatment. You can speak to your hearing aid provider about the benefits of:

  • your hearing aid mould being vented. This is when a hole is made in the hearing aid mould to allow air into the ear canal when wearing the hearing aid
  • having a hypo-allergenic hearing aid mould, which contains material less likely to cause a reaction with the skin

If you have itchy or dry skin

Speak to your local pharmacist or a healthcare professional about treatments available.


To keep your ears dry when swimming, you might consider wearing a tight-fitting swimming hat over your ears. Headbands are also available to protect the ears from water. This will also help keep cotton wool or earplugs in place.

If you have frequent ear infections, it might be helpful to visit an audiologist (specialist in ear and hearing problems) and have an impression taken of your outer ear, to get some silicone swimming plugs. The plugs create a seal, so water does not get into your ear. This service might be provided for you by the NHS. Ask your GP or practice nurse to refer you.

Resource number: 4617/VER2
Last reviewed: July 2023
Next review due: July 2026



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Contact us

If you are concerned about your ears, see your local nurse or doctor. There is a nurse-led adult ear care clinic at Guy's Hospital. Ask your GP or doctor to refer you. 

Nurse-led ear care clinic

ENT (ear, nose and throat) Department, 2nd Floor, Southwark Wing, Guy’s Hospital, London SE1 9RT.

Adult access team

Phone 020 7188 8872, press option 2 
Email [email protected]

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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