The safety and effectiveness of different methods of ear wax removal: a systematic review and economic evaluation

Clegg, A., Loveman, E., Gospodarevskaya, E., Harris, P., Bird, A., Bryant, J., Scott, D.A., Davidson, P., Little, P. and Coppin , R. (2010) The safety and effectiveness of different methods of ear wax removal: a systematic review and economic evaluation. Health Technology Assessment, 14, (28), 1-191. (doi:10.3310/hta14280). (PMID:20546687).


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Ear wax (cerumen) is a natural secretion produced to protect the inner ear from dirt and other fragments by moving these particles towards the outer ear. If this process does not happen properly, wax may build up causing blockage in the ear canal and the possibility of impaction. People with a build up of ear wax may suffer from hearing loss, discomfort and, on occasions, infection. It may present problems in assessing hearing, blocking the view of the ear drum during medical examination and interfering with the fitting or function of hearing aids. Although it is thought to affect between 2% and 6% of the population in the England and Wales, some groups may be at a higher risk, such as those using hearing aids or with small ear canals and/or skin conditions. Recurrence is thought to be high among some of these groups. The consequences of the build up of ear wax in the ear canal are thought to be a common reason for consultation and cost in general practice with over 2 million consultations per year in the NHS.

Methods of removal of ear wax include drops, flushing with water in general practice, and removal with suction or probes in specialist clinics. The relative safety and benefits of these different methods of removal remains uncertain. This research will systematically review published and unpublished evidence on the clinical and cost effectiveness of different methods for the removal of ear wax. Where appropriate, it will develop an economic model using data from this systematic review and other relevant sources to estimate the relative costs and benefits of different methods. In addition, the project will provide recommendations for future research to try to help answer any remaining areas of uncertainty.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.3310/hta14280
ISSNs: 1366-5278 (print)
Related URLs:
Keywords: earwax, systematic review, cost effectiveness, economic evaluation
Subjects: R Medicine > RF Otorhinolaryngology
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Medicine
University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Medicine > Community Clinical Sciences
ePrint ID: 153113
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
Date Deposited: 18 May 2010 13:53
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:24

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