To irrigate or not?
Ear irrigation appointments were a routine part of a general practice nurse's (GPN's) day; however, due to COVID and misconceptions, ear irrigation has not been happening. Having earwax is part of the ear's natural process of cleaning and protection, and, in most cases, it does not need to be removed. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, 2021), however, recommend offering ear wax removal if: earwax is contributing to hearing loss or other symptoms; the tympanic membrane is obscured by wax but needs to be viewed to establish a diagnosis; or an impression needs to be taken of the ear canal.
We know if left untreated, symptoms of ear wax build up can lead to a greater risk of ear infections, social isolation, depression and sometimes an increased risk of falls. This is more evident during COVID, causing added isolation for older people, especially those who have reduced hearing due to wax, and who rely on their phone to contact family, friends and loved ones, and television and radio for companionship. I am sure we can all empathise and have our own stories to share.
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