How Long Can a Foreign Object Stay in Your Ear?

Reviewed on 1/11/2021

A foreign object cannot fall out from your ear on its own.
A foreign object cannot fall out from your ear on its own.

A foreign object cannot fall out from your ear on its own. It can stay in your ear until you do not remove it or get it removed.

Small, inert foreign bodies, such as beads, can stay for 1-2 weeks in your ear without causing any complications. Complications result when you try unsafe methods to deal with the problem. If organic materials, such as cotton, food items, or insects go deep inside while attempting their removal, an ear infection may develop.

You must not attempt to remove a foreign body at home. Promptly contact your doctor.

The foreign body may cause:

What are the symptoms of a foreign object in your ear?

A foreign object in the ear canal will usually make you feel uncomfortable and restless. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Decreased hearing in the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Ringing sound in the ear (tinnitus)
  • Dry cough
  • Buzzing or feel tickling sensations (if the foreign body is an insect)

How does the doctor diagnose a foreign object in the ear?

Your doctor will use a handheld, lighted magnifying glass (otoscope) for getting a view of the inside of your ear. This can help identify the foreign object and damage (if any) caused to the eardrum.

What to do when you have a foreign object in your ear?

You tend to attempt various things after you sense that something has entered your ear. Here are the dos and don’ts when you have a foreign body in your ear:

  • Turn your head so that the affected ear faces downwards. Gravity can help remove the foreign body if it is not stuck deep inside your ear. Shake your head gently (and not aggressively) to facilitate its removal. In case the foreign body has gone inside your child’s ear, encourage them to do so.
  • Do not use tweezers or any sharp object to remove the foreign body. You may end up injuring your ear. Immediately visit a doctor because they have all the necessary tools and expertise to do it. 
  • If you suspect the entry of an insect into your ear, do not put your finger and try removing it. It may bite your ear and injure the delicate portion. Visit a doctor right away. On the way, put 2-3 drops of mineral oil into your ear to suffocate the insect. The doctor can flush sterile water into your ear and remove it easily.
  • If you suspect a button battery to be a foreign object, do not delay seeking medical help. This is a medical emergency.

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References
Kwong AO-K. Ear Foreign Body Removal Procedures. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/80507-overview

Dance D, Ludemann JP. Removal of ear canal foreign bodies in children: What can go wrong and when to refer. BCMJ. January 2009;51(1):20-4. https://bcmj.org/articles/removal-ear-canal-foreign-bodies-children-what-can-go-wrong-and-when-refer

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