March 26, 2017
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Objects or Insects in Ear

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Objects or insects in ear overview

Foreign objects in the ear are common reasons for emergency room visits, especially in children. The majority of these foreign objects are harmless. Some are extremely uncomfortable (insects or sharp objects) and some can rapidly produce an infection (food or organic matter) requiring emergency treatment. If a person is not certain of the potential for harm in regard to an object or insect in the ear, seek medical care immediately.

What are causes of objects in the ear?

Most objects that get stuck in the ear canal are placed there by the person themselves. Children who are curious about their bodies and interesting objects, are the group most often has this problem (children aged 9 months to 8 years). Beads, food (especially beans), paper, cotton swabs, rubber erasers, and small toys are the most common foreign bodies.

Ear wax is a naturally occurring substance in the ear canal but can become a problem when it builds up to the point that it clogs the ear canal, and causes hearing loss or pain. Overuse of cotton swabs such as Q-tips to clean the ear can actually push wax and skin cell debris further into the canal and pack it against the eardrum causing symptoms.

Insects can also fly or crawl into the ear canal. Usually this happens while sleeping on the floor or outdoors (for example, camping). This is often a frightening and dramatic event as the insect's buzzing and movement is very loud and sometimes painful.

Picture of Ear Canal and Inner Ear Structure
Picture of Ear Canal and Inner Ear Structure

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/6/2015


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