Sodium bicarbonate ear drops

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Sodium bicarbonate ear drops are used to soften dry or hardened earwax.

Use three or four drops twice daily for 3-5 days. Each time you use the drops, allow the solution to remain in your ear for 5-10 minutes.

If your symptoms have not improved after five days, make an appointment to see your doctor for further advice.

Type of medicineEarwax softener
Used forRemoval of earwax
Available asEar drops

Earwax is naturally produced by your body to protect the skin inside your ear canal. The quantity produced varies between individuals, and sometimes it can build up and become hard and dry, causing hearing problems. Sodium bicarbonate ear drops are used to soften dry and hardened earwax. This reduces the need for wax to be physically removed, but also makes ear irrigation easier when removal is necessary.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you (or your child) start using the drops it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you have a perforated (burst) eardrum, or if you have recently had any ear surgery.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine, or to any other ear drops.
  • If you are using any other ear products. This includes any preparations which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.

Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about using the drops.

  1. Wash your hands before you begin.
  2. Lie down, or tilt your head a little, so that the affected ear is facing upwards.
  3. Gently pull your earlobe to straighten the ear canal.
  4. Release 3-4 drops into your ear to fill the ear canal. Try not to touch the inside of your ear with the dropper as you do this. If the drops are for a child, only insert as many drops as are needed to fill the ear canal.
  5. Keep your ear facing upwards for 5-10 minutes to keep the solution in your ear.
  6. Repeat the process in your other ear if you have been asked to use the drops in both ears.
  • Use the drops twice a day for 3-5 days. This is usually sufficient to soften the wax, but if your symptoms do not improve, make an appointment to see your doctor for further advice.
  • Do not try to clean inside your ear with cotton buds. If you stick buds or other objects into your ear they can compact the wax and make matters worse. Just wipe the outside of your ear with a clean cloth or tissue if any wax comes out on its own.

Sodium bicarbonate ear drops can sometimes cause dryness in your ear canal, but this is rarely troublesome. It is unlikely that you will experience any other side-effects but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if there is anything that concerns you.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • If there is any preparation left in the container after you have finished your course of treatment, do not keep it to use later. Ear drops should not be used if the bottle has been open for longer than four weeks.

Never use more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that someone has swallowed some of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to use with your other medicines.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are using.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 65th Edition (Mar 2013) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
3675 (v24)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

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