A personal amplifier contains a microphone that picks up sound and an amplifier to make the sound louder. It usually consists of a box slightly larger than a matchbox with the components enclosed. A general rule of thumb is the larger the box, the more powerful the device. The box is usually connected to ear-bud headphones through which the amplified sound is heard. They can be useful for people who have difficulty wearing or managing conventional hearing aids or who are unable to tolerate anything inside the ear canal. They are also a good option when the device is managed by another person as the controls are large and headphones are easy to place over the ears. Usually a personal amplifier will have a volume control that can be adjusted by the wearer – but unlike hearing aids they are not set up to match the individual’s specific hearing loss. Often personal amplifiers can be plugged directly into other devices such as the television. They can be a good solution if a simple, easy to manage device is required. They are usually fitted instead of hearing aids but can also be used with hearing aids via the telecoil.

No. Ear candling is not an effective way of removing wax. The procedure involves having the patient lie on the opposite ear while a lit hollow candle is inserted into the external auditory canal of the affected ear. It is reported that the combination of heat and suction is supposed to remove earwax. Numerous studies have demonstrated that there is no change in the amount of wax present before and after ear candling and there has not been evidence of earwax actually being found in the candle after the procedure has been conducted. If anything, the process of ear candling can lead to any wax present being pushed further into the ear canal or wax from the candle being added to the ear canal. There is also the risk that the candle could be pushed too far into the ear causing damage to the delicate eardrum and even potentially lead to melted wax adhering to the eardrum requiring surgical intervention. It is far better to see your general practitioner, Ear, Nose and Throat specialist or an audiologist (with specialist training in wax removal techniques) for ear wax removal.The ear candling procedure has been reported by many to be relaxing and many of my clients have reported that they have seen wax and a powder inside the candle after the procedure has been done. However, this is just residue from the candle. I would advise against the use of ear candling and am disappointed that they are sold so freely when they obviously do not work and there are so many potential ill-effects.

Firstly if the wax is not blocking the ear canal or causing discomfort or irritation, leave it alone. We are all supposed to have a certain amount of earwax to protect our ear system and the ear canal is self cleaning with wax normally working its own way out of the ear canal. Neither cleaning with cotton buds or using self-use electronic vacuums is a good option. Cotton buds inserted into the ear canal tend to push the wax in further and are only safe to use in the most external part of the ear canal. After talking to various Ear, Nose and Throat specialists and GPs, there was concern that the 'vacuums' could inadvertently be pushed in too far and cause damage to the delicate ear drum which consists of only 3 layers of skin. There was also a query on how effective they would be given that a person using the device cannot determine if the device is sitting on the wax. In general, these ear vacuums are too weak to be effective and if they were more powerful they could potentially cause significant damage in untrained hands. If the ear canal is scraped or if wax is firmly attached to the skin of the canal, removing it can lead to bleeding and potential outer ear infections (otitis externa). This can occur in particular in older individuals whose skin is usually more fragile. A self cleaning method that is often advocated is to get a tissue and twist it into a spear shape. After having a shower, the wax in the ear canals is often softer and the tissue spear can be used to mop up any softer wax. If the wax is still present or hardened you could try using drops such as Ear Clear or seeing your GP or ENT specialist. Many audiologists also have the training and expertise to remove wax using dry methods that involve picking out the wax while visualising the ear canal through a magnified headlight.

Options are available depending on your budget and needs. Custom-made earplugs can be produced in a flesh colour; you would need to go to your local hearing clinic for these. They fit well in the ears because they are made to match the exact shape of your own anatomy and are usually more comfortable and seal better than generic plugs. They also tend to last longer.Alternatively and more cheaply, you could purchase some off-the-shelf plugs in flesh colour or clear colour from many chemists or hearing clinics and the cost will vary from around $5- $30. The shop-bought items should have some information on the packaging regarding the level of attenuation (dampening) that you will receive from the plugs. Some are disposable after one usage and other silicon-based plugs will last much longer. The important thing for the power tools and mowing is to reduce the sound pressure to a level that is not dangerous to your hearing and the fit of the earplugs really matters for this. If air is escaping around the earplug, then sound will also be leaking in around the plugs to the eardrum. Some people prefer to use earmuffs for noisy situations as it is easier to make sure they are really covering the ears, but they are, of course, more obvious when you are wearing them. Earmuffs can be purchased at hardware and specialty shops.