What people have told us about getting treatment for earwax and hearing problems in Oxfordshire

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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.

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General details

Report title 
What people have told us about getting treatment for earwax and hearing problems in Oxfordshire
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Oxfordshire
Date of publication 
Tuesday, 26 October, 2021
Date evidence capture began 
Thursday, 1 April, 2021
Date evidence capture finished 
Wednesday, 30 June, 2021
Key themes 
Cleanliness hygiene and infection control
Communication between staff and patients
Cost of services
Health inequalities
Information providing
Service delivery organisation and staffing

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
Community pharmacy
GP practice
Optometry services
Secondary care services 
Ear, nose and throat

Details about conditions and diseases

Conditions or diseases 
Ear nose and throat conditions
Types of disabilities 
What type of pregnancy or maternity themes are included in the report 

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
25-64 years
65-85 years
85 +
Other ethnic group
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not known
Does the information include staff's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.