What people have told us about getting treatment for earwax and hearing problems in OxfordshireDownload (PDF 413KB)
Summary of report content
Healthwatch Oxfordshire undertook research about earwax removal services after hearing about difficulties from people being able to access treatment. They ran a survey from April to June 2021 to find out people’s experiences. They received 173 responses.
People experienced a variety of earwax problems and symptoms. The commonest problems included hearing loss or deafness, tinnitus, dizziness, and loss of balance. Some people also reported suffering pain, infection, irritability, and depression.
Healthwatch heard that identifying an earwax problem and a suitable treatment can be confusing. Most people told us that when they called their GP practice about an earwax problem, they were told that the service was no longer provided. Being able to have earwax treatment at a local GP practice was highly valued. The benefits included confirming the presence of earwax, identifying any underlying medical condition, and the high quality of treatment, with no charge. Respondents were surprised and disappointed to find out that the service had stopped.
Of 94 people who gave information about a recent experience of an earwax problem, only four were seen at their GP practice, while 22 (23%) went to a high street provider such as Boots or Specsavers, and 30 (32%) to another private practitioner. Seven people received treatment somewhere else, usually through a hospital referral. Fourteen people (15%) treated their earwax themselves either with ear drops, oil, or equipment they had bought online, and 17 people said they did not get any treatment. The cost of earwax treatment ranged from less than £25 to £100.
GP practices provided people with information or advice on earwax and how to manage it. Although some also gave the names of local private providers, patients said they often had to search themselves.
The report includes 5 recommendations about better information to the public and GPs, tackling health inequalities and access to treatment.