FAQ's

Wax Removal

  • Do I need to pre-oil my ears before my wax removal appointment?

Ear wax removal is generally a dry process, however it is ok to use olive oil drops or spray (for example Earol for a couple of days before your microsuctioning appointment. Please do not over-oil as microsuction is not then possible as wax will become too ‘sludge-like’ and runny, and risks blocking up the microsuction equipment. Also, do not use harsh chemical options, or cotton buds (this actually makes the problem far worse by compacting the wax and pushing it nearer to the  ear drum!), or attempt to remove wax yourself.

  • Are there any special requirements?

Not really, but you must be able to keep your head still, or alternatively, have someone with you who can help support your head if needed. Children need to be able to sit still and should be old enough to tolerate the procedure (suggested  12 years and over). Medical history and consent forms must be completed prior to the appointment to conform with indemnity insurance regulations and for your safety. Face masks must be worn throughout the appointment unless medically exempt.

  • What happens before and during the appointment?

Before the appointment we will Email a medical history and consent forms for completion (they can be completed on the day if Email is not an option). The appointment cannot proceed without these forms being completed beforehand. 

We will examine your ears using a standard otoscope and a video otoscope (which can take pictures of your ears) to evaluate the nature and consistency of any cerumen (ear wax) present. A low pressure (but can be noisy) suction probe  will be carefully placed in your ear to suck out any wax. A slightly strange feeling, but should not be uncomfortable. We will ask you to tell us to stop should you suffer any discomfort or dizziness during the procedure. It is important that you keep you head very still throughout the microsuction process. We will re-examine your ears during and post-procedure. The microsuctioning is limited to a maximum of 10 minutes per ear for your safety and comfort. 

  • Are there any risks associated with microsuctioning?

The procedure is not risk free, however, as we do not go beyond the second bend of the ear canal, we reduce the risks    of causing a perforation of the ear drum, and of excessive levels of noise which could cause tinnitus (or exacerbate existing tinnitus), or cause a temporary hearing loss. We limit the microsuctioning to a maximum of 10 minutes per ear    for safety. If you are taking anti-coagulant medications (blood thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin), there is a slightly  increased risk of bleeding from the procedure. Our Audiologists are fully-trained and hold the relevant qualifications and training to perform aural microsuction, and we are fully insured to carry out the procedures offered. Please ask if you have any questions or concerns. 

  • What happens if you cannot remove all of the wax during the appointment? 

If the wax is particularly stubborn, or impacted, and cannot safely be removed at the first appointment, we will ask you to soften the wax with some olive oil spray or drops for a few days and book you a further appointment free of charge. In  rare cases an onward referral to ENT may be made.

  • What happens if my ear drums do not appear to look healthy or normal?

Occasionally we will find abnormal ear canals or ear drums which need further investigation or treatment (for example,    an ear infection or previously undiagnosed perforation). As part of the consultation, a free ear health check and video otoscopy is included. We will report to your GP (with your consent) our findings and recommend onward referral to an  Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant if warranted.

  • Do you microsuction ears that have perforations?

Generally not, however if the perforation is small, dry, longstanding and centrally located, it may be possible. Please contact us in advance.

  • Do you microsuction ears that have previously had infections?

Ears must be free from infection for a minimum of 6 weeks. If you suspect that you have an ear infection please phone111 or see your GP for immediate treatment. Do not leave a suspected ear infection!

  • Do you microsuction ears that have been operated on?

Generally no, unless the operation was at least 18 months ago, and depends on the type of operation. Post-operative

ears are usually microsuctioned via the aural care nurse teams and/or Ear, Nose and Throat specialists. Please speak to your ENT department.

  • Do you irrigate (syringe ears) as well?

Usually microsuction is straightforward and does not require irrigating the ears, however, occasionally it may be necessary to irrigate, particularly to remove wax beyond the second bend of the ear canal, or wax that is overly soft or runny. If this  is the case, we would ask for your consent to proceed, and a small amount of lukewarm water will be squirted into the ear(s) to help to flush out any remaining wax. If irrigation has been used it is really important that ears MUST be kept dry for 5 days post-appointment to avoid introducing an infection, and ears must not be touched or itched either.

  • What happens if there is no, or only a small amount of wax present at the consultation?

If there is no wax, or only a little wax present, and not enough to warrant microsuction, we will check your ear health

incase of an alternative physical cause for the blocked feeling (such as Eustacian Tube Dysfunction or perforation), and

will refer onwards to your GP or ENT if appropriate (We may perform tympanometry (an ear pressure test) to establish, or confirm, any middle ear function issue). We will also perform a FREE hearing screening test to ensure that an underlying hearing loss is not causing the problem, and offer hearing aids if appropriate. A reduced fee of only £25 will be charged for the consultation if both ears are free of wax on otoscopic examination.

  

  • What happens during the *hearing screening check?

After the microsuction appointment a FREE hearing screening check* will be offered to ensure that there is no underlying hearing loss causing the hearing problem (*This will be a separate short appointment for a screening hearing check - (500Hz, 1KHz, 2KHz and 4KHz Air Conduction bilaterally), as unable to perform immediately post-microsuction since the procedure can lead to a temporary change in hearing levels for some people. Please also note that this is not a full diagnostic hearing test which can be performed for a £50 fee - see hearing assessment section). Headphones or inserts will be placed into your ears and you will be asked to press a button, or acknowledge, when you hear a sound, no matter how faint the sound is. If a  hearing loss is detected, you will be offered a the opportunity to return for a full diagnostic hearing test with the option   to purchase hearing aids. An onward referral (with your consent) may be needed to your GP or an Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant in the event of finding an asymmetrical hearing loss, or a hearing loss requiring further investigation. 

  • How much do you charge for Microsuction wax removal?

For monaural (one ear) microsuction consultation £45, for binaural (both ears) microsuction consultation £60 

(A non-refundable Deposit of £25 will be taken at the time of booking, balance due at appointment) 

This price includes a FREE bilateral ear health check, FREE video otoscopy, Aural microsuction wax removal (monaurally  or bilaterally depending on purchase), FREE Bionix irrigation if needed, FREE Tympanometry (middle ear function test)      if needed and an optional FREE hearing screening check (to ensure that an underlying hearing loss is not causing the problem). A reduced fee of only £25 will be charged if both ears are completely free of wax on examination, and a  hearing check will be conducted to establish whether a hearing loss is the cause, with the option to return for a full diagnostic hearing test - see hearing assessment section below (with the option to purchase hearing aids if desired -    there is no obligation). Results will be sent to your GP with recommendation for onward referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant if clinically needed.  

A home visit can be arranged within a 10 mile radius of Exmouth, Devon for an additional fee - please contact us for details and to arrange a domicillary visit. 

If you live in a care home or sheltered accommodation, and have a quiet community room, it may be possible to   organise for several residents to have microsuction appointments on the same day for ease. Please contact us to    arrange a bespoke visit.   

We are a Covid-safe clinic, adhering to current Covid guidelines and full PPE is worn. We will also ask you to wear a face covering and to sanitise your hands on arrival for your safety and the safety of staff.

                                                                                                                                    

Hearing Assessments & Hearing Aids

  • What happens during a hearing assessment?

A full hearing assessment costs £50 and will take around an hour. A detailed medical and lifestyle history will be taken  first. This is to establish your needs and requirements from hearing aids/amplification if applicable - for example,  someone who lives quietly at home and struggles to hear their partner and TV clearly may have different requirements than an individual who is more socially active, who may well struggle in the workplace, group and background noise situations.  Your ears will be checked for wax and any other observations (ear health check), both with a standard  otoscope and video otoscopy (in case pictures need to be taken).  A full diagnostic hearing test will then be carried out, including air & bone conduction, masking, speech discrimination testing (in quiet and noise) and tympanometry if appropriate.  Your results will be explained to you, with the opportunity to ask questions about the nature of any hearing loss found.  If medically appropriate, and with your consent, your results may need to be forwarded to your GP or an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist in the event of any abnormalities, or onward referable criteria.

You will be offered a choice of suitable hearing aids depending on the results, medical appropriateness and any other requirements (for example, In-the-Ear (ITE) aids may not be suitable for someone with poor dexterity, or good low frequency hearing as too occluding).

  • What sort of hearing aids are best for me?

A tricky question to answer! This depends on several factors, including hearing loss type and configuration, lifestyle requirements, manual dexterity, speech discrimination ability, size and shape of ear canals, to name but a few considerations! There is a wide choice of aid styles, shapes, sizes, colours, and nowadays options also include Bluetooth compatibility and rechargeable aids. Most link to apps that give you greater flexibility with settings, and can even help find your aids if you lose them - although they should be in your ears!

 

Aids can also link wirelessly to external devices such as TV streamers, remote controls and external small microphones    for those difficult listening situations. At Southwest Audiology Services we only sell the very best premium aids from top manufacturers - no pop-in amplifiers here. Aids are also set up to 'gold standard' real ear measurements wherever possible, which takes into account the acoustics of your own individual ear canal resonances for greater accuracy when fine-tuning the aids. Don't be tempted to buy an off-the-peg or 'cheap' online hearing aid or pop-in amplifier, as they    will not normally be fitted to your individual prescription and verified with real ear measurements, in-situ audiometry or speech mapping. In fact, you could well be damaging your residual hearing if the hearing aid(s) are not correctly set-up  for your hearing loss and properly configured for your individual ears.

 

  • How much do hearing aids cost?

This depends on the style, manufacturer and whether rechargeable option. Premium hearing aids are an investment and should last 3-5 years if properly looked after. The prices range from £2500-£4000 for a pair of premium hearing aids, including a 3-5 year warranty (depending on manufacturer), and free aftercare service. Monaural, CROS/BICROS and Combination aids (for hearing loss plus intrusive tinnitus) are also available. Prices on application.

  • Can I try before I buy?

It may be possible to try a pair of demonstration aids for 7 days depending on choice of aid and nature of hearing loss. We offer a 30-day no quibble guarantee post-fitting and will always try to try to help. Hearing aids are not easy to adjust

to initially, as they will sound a bit tinny and harsh until your brain adjusts to hearing all of the new sounds again (this can take several months, so stick with it!).

  • Is there a warranty or aftercare included in the price?

 

Depending on manufacturer a 3-5 year warranty is included with the price of the hearing aids. We would suggest

ensuring that the hearing aids are added as a separate high value item to your household insurance policy, as warranties will not cover accidental, malicious, lost or water-damaged aids.

 

  • How often do I need to upgrade my hearing aids? roughly every 3-5 years, although may last longer if well maintained

  • Can I pay by installments? Sorry, this option is not available at present.

Hearing Protection 

  • What hearing protection can Southwest Audiology Services provide?

Anyone exposed to sound levels in excess of 80dBA (which is not very loud!) should be considering hearing protection.

 

Southwest Audiology Services can supply specialist custom-made filtered musician's pieces for band and orchestra members, night-clubbers, DJ's, hyperacusis sufferers (with a choice of attenuation filters).  Custom noise plugs for motosports enthusiasts and bikers. Custom noise plugs for shooting, DIY and gardening enthusiasts.

For those who love watersports - surf and swim plugs (to help prevent infections and exostoses "surfers ear").

Dual and triple driver in-ear monitors for audio engineers and music buffs.

We can even supply sleep plugs for partners of snorers!

  • Do my ears need to be clear of wax for impressions of my ears to be taken to provide custom hearing protection?

Yes, ears need to be completely clear of wax with a good view of the ear drum for impressions of the ears to be safely taken. At Southwest Audiology Services we are able to de-wax ears using microsuction if they are too blocked for impressions to be taken safely. A discount will be given against the cost of microsuction in these cases.

Workplace Noise Risk Assessments

  • What is a workplace noise risk assessment?

Every employer has a duty of care to their employees to protect hearing under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, and can be fined heavily for non-compliance by the Health & Safety Executive, as well as risk being sued by employees for causing Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) and/or tinnitus through workplace-related noise damage.

Both the number of fines being issued by the HSE and the number of industrial noise damage claims are on the rise. 

Employees also have to comply with regulations under this act, including wearing hearing protection where compulsory (where noise levels are in excess of 85dBA) and reporting equipment wear and tear. Many small and medium companies

in particular are not always aware of their legal obligations as tend not to employ dedicated health and safety managers.

A workplace noise risk assessment measures noise levels of potential 'at risk' members of staff at their workstations,

using an industrial sound level meter, and calculations are made regarding safe levels and time limits for safe noise exposure for employees. The report also details legal obligations under the regulations, as well as prevention and equipment advice. Baseline audiometric measurements are usually recorded for employees and continued industrial surveillance audiometry can be arranged. Furthermore, Southwest Audiology Services is able to provide custom hearing protection for those employees requiring custom noise plugs to help prevent hearing damage and tinnitus.  

 

For a detailed, tailored quote please Email us with information about the nature of your business and number of employees. We can arrange a video call to discuss further. You may also find it helpful to read the information provided by the Health & Safety Executive (https://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/regulations.htm).

If you are unsure about the level of noise that your employees may be exposed to we would suggest downloading a free Sound Level Meter (SLM) app on your phone and checking the levels (at ear level) at employees' work stations.

Remember that the levels don’t have to be very high to be too much for our very sensitive ears!

Tinnitus

  • What is tinnitus and can it be cured?

Tinnitus is a perceived sound, or sounds, not caused by an outside source. Many people report a ringing, buzzing,

whistling or high-pitched sounds. Unilateral tinnitus (one ear only) and Pulsatile tinnitus (heartbeat sounds) should always be reported to your GP, as should balance problems accompanied by tinnitus at the same time.

Tinnitus is known to be associated with certain medical conditions, such as Menieres Disease (which also affects balance), and is known to be strongly linked to noise exposure/trauma. Tinnitus is also thought to be associated with certain medications, including commonly prescribed drugs such as aspirin, quinine, diuretics (water tablets) and certain antibiotics, and is also linked to some chemotherapy agents. Furthermore, there is an established link between tinnitus perception and anxiety, stress and depression, so incredibly important to focus on relaxation and address any causes of

underlying anxiety and stress.

  

  • What can I do to help alleviate my tinnitus?

In the first instance have a look online at the information provided by the British Tinnitus Organisation (BTA) (https://www.tinnitus.org.uk). They also have a helpline and provide links to equipment and other organisations who can provide help and support. Relaxation, distraction and avoidance of silence are extremely important tools in learning to cope with intrusive tinnitus - I speak from personal experience here! Reducing caffeine, sodium (salt) and alcohol intake are also thought to be beneficial. Avoid excessive NOISE !!!!!

Where there is an underlying hearing loss plus tinnitus, standard hearing aids or specialist combination hearing aids, which include sound generators, can be particularly helpful. Please contact Southwest Audiology Services for further information, and to book a hearing test. 

Data Protection

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