Disease: Objects or Insects in Ear

    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

    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), 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.

    How is an object in the ear diagnosed?

    Objects in the ear usually can be seen by a doctor by directly looking in the ear with an instrument called an otoscope. A magnifying light with a plastic cone tip is slid into the ear canal to look at the structures inside. In cases involving children, it is important to realize there may be more than one foreign body, and other orifices (other ear, mouth, nose and rectum) may also need to be examined. Once the object is seen, there are many ways of retrieving it.

    How is an object in the ear treated?

    If the object is very small the affected individual can try to gently shake it out. Pulling the back of the ear (the pinna) gently toward the back of the head straightens out the ear canal and the foreign body may roll or slide out with a gentle shake of the ear. Do not strike the affected person's head on the opposite side to try to dislodge the foreign object.

    If the foreign object is deeper in the ear than can be seen with the naked eye, a qualified medical professional should remove it. Do not stick anything into the ear to remove an object yourself, as you may push it in further and cause damage or rupture of the eardrum or scratch the skin of the ear canal.

    At the doctor's office or in the emergency room the foreign object can be removed using several techniques.

    • Modified tweezers or forceps can be used to reach in and grab the object with the help of an otoscope so important structures are not damaged.
    • Gentle suction can be used to suck out the object.
    • Irrigation of the canal with warm water and a small catheter can flush certain materials out of the canal and clean out debris.
    • Some doctors have devised ingenious and novel ways to remove objects from ear canals (paper clips, magnets, glue, etc.).

    Do not try these things yourself at home.

    Small children do not tolerate painful or scary interventions, and may need to be sedated medically to have objects removed from their ears. Often with children, the first try is the most successful, as subsequent attempts to remove an object can be painful and frightening to the child.

    Insects in the ear canal are often killed with either lidocaine (an anesthetic) or mineral oil. They are then flushed out with gentle warm water irrigation.

    After the foreign object is removed the doctor may put the patient on antibiotic drops for five days to a week to prevent infection from trauma to the ear canal.

    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), 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.

    How is an object in the ear diagnosed?

    Objects in the ear usually can be seen by a doctor by directly looking in the ear with an instrument called an otoscope. A magnifying light with a plastic cone tip is slid into the ear canal to look at the structures inside. In cases involving children, it is important to realize there may be more than one foreign body, and other orifices (other ear, mouth, nose and rectum) may also need to be examined. Once the object is seen, there are many ways of retrieving it.

    How is an object in the ear treated?

    If the object is very small the affected individual can try to gently shake it out. Pulling the back of the ear (the pinna) gently toward the back of the head straightens out the ear canal and the foreign body may roll or slide out with a gentle shake of the ear. Do not strike the affected person's head on the opposite side to try to dislodge the foreign object.

    If the foreign object is deeper in the ear than can be seen with the naked eye, a qualified medical professional should remove it. Do not stick anything into the ear to remove an object yourself, as you may push it in further and cause damage or rupture of the eardrum or scratch the skin of the ear canal.

    At the doctor's office or in the emergency room the foreign object can be removed using several techniques.

    • Modified tweezers or forceps can be used to reach in and grab the object with the help of an otoscope so important structures are not damaged.
    • Gentle suction can be used to suck out the object.
    • Irrigation of the canal with warm water and a small catheter can flush certain materials out of the canal and clean out debris.
    • Some doctors have devised ingenious and novel ways to remove objects from ear canals (paper clips, magnets, glue, etc.).

    Do not try these things yourself at home.

    Small children do not tolerate painful or scary interventions, and may need to be sedated medically to have objects removed from their ears. Often with children, the first try is the most successful, as subsequent attempts to remove an object can be painful and frightening to the child.

    Insects in the ear canal are often killed with either lidocaine (an anesthetic) or mineral oil. They are then flushed out with gentle warm water irrigation.

    After the foreign object is removed the doctor may put the patient on antibiotic drops for five days to a week to prevent infection from trauma to the ear canal.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    If the object is very small the affected individual can try to gently shake it out. Pulling the back of the ear (the pinna) gently toward the back of the head straightens out the ear canal and the foreign body may roll or slide out with a gentle shake of the ear. Do not strike the affected person's head on the opposite side to try to dislodge the foreign object.

    If the foreign object is deeper in the ear than can be seen with the naked eye, a qualified medical professional should remove it. Do not stick anything into the ear to remove an object yourself, as you may push it in further and cause damage or rupture of the eardrum or scratch the skin of the ear canal.

    At the doctor's office or in the emergency room the foreign object can be removed using several techniques.

    • Modified tweezers or forceps can be used to reach in and grab the object with the help of an otoscope so important structures are not damaged.
    • Gentle suction can be used to suck out the object.
    • Irrigation of the canal with warm water and a small catheter can flush certain materials out of the canal and clean out debris.
    • Some doctors have devised ingenious and novel ways to remove objects from ear canals (paper clips, magnets, glue, etc.).

    Do not try these things yourself at home.

    Small children do not tolerate painful or scary interventions, and may need to be sedated medically to have objects removed from their ears. Often with children, the first try is the most successful, as subsequent attempts to remove an object can be painful and frightening to the child.

    Insects in the ear canal are often killed with either lidocaine (an anesthetic) or mineral oil. They are then flushed out with gentle warm water irrigation.

    After the foreign object is removed the doctor may put the patient on antibiotic drops for five days to a week to prevent infection from trauma to the ear canal.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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