Ear Wax working group

Hearing and health are intimately linked. Ear wax blocking the ear canal is a major cause of hearing loss but treatment is no longer freely available on the NHS.

This is a crucial example of just how easy it is to privatise an essential service resulting in negative impact on huge numbers of people. Around 2.3 million people in the UK require professional ear wax removal each year.

This service was once freely available at GP surgeries but now most people are having to pay for treatment (e.g. at Boots and Specsavers, sometimes costing up to £100). The charge deters many from seeking help and some may resort to potentially harmful self-treatment.

Hearing loss is important for lots of reasons – it can lead to withdrawal from social situations, emotional distress, depression and increase the risk of loneliness and of dementia.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is clear that the NHS should: ‘offer to remove earwax for adults in primary care or community ear care services if the earwax is contributing to hearing loss or other symptoms, or needs to be removed in order to examine the ear or take an impression of the ear canal’.

This is not happening in practice because GPs are no longer funded to provide the service and alternative NHS arrangements have not been put in place. The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) found that 2/3 of those who had experienced wax build up were told removal was not available on the NHS and a quarter commented that they could not afford to have this done privately.

Keep our NHS Public agrees with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People that:
◼︎ government must ensure patients with a clinical need for ear wax removal have access to timely local NHS provision, regardless of where they live
◼︎ commissioners should investigate the different delivery models in use, or innovate new approaches, to create cost-effective models that meet people’s needs
◼︎ should ensure their ear wax removal providers are meeting contractual obligations

Keep Our NHS Public ear wax working group
The KONP working group is comprised of Maggie Winters (maggie[email protected]), Bill MacKeith ([email protected]) and John Puntis ([email protected]). The work of the group has been done mainly by email and we are keen to hear from other KONP groups about ear wax removal services in their area, and from any activists wishing to be involved with the campaigning around this issue.

The group was set up following an excellent report on preventable hearing loss by KONP Oxfordshire and the motion below, which was passed at KONP AGM in 2023.

KONP Oxfordshire; Bill MacKeith
This AGM calls on KONP national to:

◼︎ urge and support its local groups to campaign for free NHS provided ear wax removal treatments
◼︎ work with other national organisations such as RNID, Age UK and Citizens Advice to press for funding for ear wax removal treatment to be included in the General Medical Services contract
◼︎ raise awareness amongst the media and professional journals about the importance of this issue and the impact the lack of service is having on millions of people
◼︎ press ministers, shadow ministers and MPs to reinstate a free, universal and NHS provided ear wax removal service

Further information and campaigning material

KONP statement and campaign materials

Royal National Institute for Deaf People correspondence and information

Medical articles

Maggie Winters
Bill MacKeith
John Puntis