Photo of surgeon carrying out microsuction of the ear as an outpatient procedure. Patient is lying on a couch and specialist uses a speculum and tiny suction tube to examine and treat conditions of the outer and middle ear

Microsuction of the Ear

Surgeon's magfified view down the ear speculum of removal of ear wax by microsuction


Information on Microsuction of the Ear updated 16 August 2014


Microsuction is an examination and treatment of the ear using a high powered binocular operating microscope. We use very fine delicate instruments, including a miniature vacuum cleaner. This Hoovering of the ear is usually done as an out-patient procedure. Sometimes, and especially in younger children, it is done as a day case surgery under general anaesthetic.

Typical ear problems that are treated using microsuction of the ear include

Microsuction of the ear is carried out

  • to diagnose the condition of the ear accurately using
    • binocular vision for 3-d stereoscopic view
    • high power magnification
    • very bright illumination
  • to remove material blocking the ear canal such as
    • wax
    • infected debris
    • dead skin layers
    • foreign bodies
  • to apply medication to the ear

Earol olive oil spray applied to ear canal to soften wax

Having microsuction treatment: what to expect and what to do

Before microsuction of the ear

You may be asked to use ear drops or Earol olive oil spray for several days beforehand. This will make the treatment easier for you.

During the procedure of microsuction of the ear

  • You do need to lie very still.
  • Despite all our efforts to be as gentle as possible, it will be noisy, and may be painful.
  • It usually causes some short lived vertigo (dizzines), lasting no more than a minute or so.

After the procedure of microsuction of the ear

  • Don’t get up until the nurse says so – you may be dizzy.
  • You should be ok to drive afterwards but may need to wait until any dizziness has settled.

Cleaning the ear without microsuction using cotton wool on a Jobson-Horne probeWhat’s the alternative?

Dry mopping

An alternative to microsuction often used in children with runny, discharging ears is to gently mop out the ear with a cotton wool applicator. Illumination is from light shone over the child’s shoulder and focussed onto the ear by a head mirror worn by the surgeon. The view is nothing like as good, and we can’t normally reach right down to the eardrum, but it is less scary for the child.

Microsuction of ear under general anaesthesia

If we can’t carry out an adequate examination with the child (or adult) awake, a General Anaesthetic may be recommended.