Objects or Insects in Ear

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ear Infection Slideshow Pictures

What are the symptoms of an object in the ear?

The skin in the ear canal and the eardrum is very sensitive. Any inflammation or injury is usually readily apparent due to pain or irritation.

In young children who are not old enough to verbalize their pain, the diagnosis can be challenging. Redness, swelling, or discharge (blood, inflammatory fluid, or pus) are the main signs of injury to the ear. Small children often scratch or rub the ear repeatedly.

In the case of earwax impaction (cerumen impaction), a "fullness" or pressure is often reported and a decrease in hearing on the affected side is noticed. In extreme cases, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, or unsteady walking results from inflammation of the ear or build-up of pressure on the eardrum causing dysfunction of their middle ear.

When should I call the doctor for an object in the ear?

The vast majority of foreign bodies in the ear are not true medical emergencies. Call a doctor if something is in the affected person's ear, but the symptoms are minor. This can usually wait until the morning when your doctor's office opens if it occurs at night.

If the affected individual has inflammation (swelling), swollen and red ear that is displaced outward, fever, discharge, bleeding, or increasing pain; see a doctor urgently. If the object in the ear is a battery, seek medical attention immediately. If you are unsure of the severity of the injury, see a doctor.

Certain foreign bodies are potentially more harmful than others. Organic material (bugs, plants, or food) should be removed promptly due to the possibility of swelling of the material and rapid onset of infection. Insects should be removed quickly as they cause distressing symptoms and great discomfort, and can sting or bite causing further damage. A few drops of mineral oil may be placed in the ear canal prior to going to the doctor to kill the insect and stop the buzzing or scraping sensation on the eardrum.

Button-type batteries from household gadgets or watches are particularly dangerous and need to be removed as soon as possible as they may leak chemicals that can burn and severely damage the ear canal even within an hour.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/6/2015
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