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Letter to the Editor: crisis of NHS ear wax removal services


Dear Editor,

I am writing to support RNID’s ear wax campaign and share my personal experience of struggling to get ear wax removal.

Hearing health plays a vital role as part of our general wellbeing. It has now become the victim of increasing levels of privatisation within  the Health Service.  Periodically anyone who has hearing loss and needs to have hearing assistance devices needs to have ear wax removed.  How is that this simple procedure has  now to be arranged privately, rather as part of  NHS provision?  The high costs of removal are not viable for many on low incomes or who are pensioners and amounts to a tax on the health of the vulnerable.

It is estimated that around 2.3 million people a year in the UK require their ear wax to be removed by a professional. Ear wax build up can cause painful and distressing symptoms – such as hearing loss, tinnitus and debilitating earache – yet RNID’s new report highlights the horrifying reality that far too many people are unable to access this essential service on the NHS.

RNID’s report shows that only 18 out of 40 Integrated Care Boards, the commissioners of most NHS services, are meeting public health guidelines by providing ear wax removal services for everyone in their area. 15 provide a limited service, or use restrictive criteria, and 7 don’t provide any service at all. This means thousands of people like me face avoidable hearing loss, tinnitus and earache because they can’t get ear wax removed on the NHS.

It is unacceptable that people are facing long-delays and costly private appointments because local Integrated Care Boards are not delivering.  You can find out more about RNID’s ear wax campaign by visiting rnid.org.uk/earwax

RNID need your support.  As someone who experiences ear wax build up, I am joining RNID in calling on the Department of Health and Social Care for an urgent review of ear wax removal services for people who are failing to get the care they need on the NHS. The problem is certainly clear – people who need ear wax removal must be able to access this service on the NHS, regardless of where they live.

Kel Portman,


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