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From bugs to foreign objects, things entering and stuck in your ear canal can pose a serious issue. Here's what you need to know about potential emergencies.
2019-06-25

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What to Do If Something Enters Your Ear

Your ears are extremely delicate, and damage to the inside can seriously harm your ability to hear. In order to protect the inner workings of your ears, it's important that you know what to do in the event of an emergency.

A q-tip shoved in too far, a small stone getting trapped or a bug crawling about in your ear canal — these sound like worrying issues. Even the thought can unnerve you, so what do you do if they actually happen? Staying calm and knowing what to do in the case of an aural emergency is top priority. Panicking or further injuring yourself can cause more issues, and the last thing you want is to damage your hearing.

While it’s difficult to prepare for every emergency, you can try to make a game plan for potential disasters. A bug or foreign object inside the ear might sound like a far-off, impossible event, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Here’s some information on how to remove a foreign object, and what to do if an insect finds its way into your ear.

There Is Something Stuck In My Ear

If you have an accident or find out that your child has done something reckless, you might feel panicked. However, many children and adults end up in hospital rooms with objects in their ears. It is more common among children, since they don’t have the awareness to process the potential danger. They might stick objects, food, or other types of foreign manner in the mouths, nose, and ears.

In fact, the most common objects found in ears are beads, paper, buttons, foods like beans, and even rubber erasers. If it is small enough to fit, your child might attempt it. Adults might end up with rocks, q-tips, or bobby pins stuck in their ears.

Small batteries, like hearing aid batteries, can become stuck in the ear if a child places them there. These are more serious, as the batteries can corrode or leak into the ear, causing damage. Head to the emergency room as soon as possible, even if you manage to dislodge the object. A check-up is necessary to make sure no damage has occurred.

While you might feel tempted to remove the object yourself, you should avoid doing so unless it’s painless and safe to do so. For example, if it is possible to painlessly pluck the object out, you can do so carefully. However, if the object is lodged inside or requires forceps to remove, do not attempt it. You could shove the object further in or damage the inner ear. Never insert other objects into your ear in an attempt to dislodge foreign matter.

Medical staff are trained to remove foreign objects from the ear, and have the equipment to do so. While it might seem like a hassle to go to the emergency room, you might be saving your hearing or the hearing of your child. The situations are common, especially in children, and many are harmless when handled correctly. However, if you exacerbate the issue, your hearing organs could be damaged.

Something In My Ear Is Moving?

This can be a seriously frightening experience, especially for a child. It is not unheard of for bugs to crawl inside people’s mouths, nostrils, and ears. In some situations, they can even become stuck in your ear. While the sound and sensation might cause you to panic, it’s important that you remain calm. Vigorously shaking your head or smacking at your ears might cause the bug to burrow deeper, sting, bite, or pinch you.

First, you should encourage the bug to crawl out on its own. Sit with your head tipped to encourage the bug’s exit, and straighten your ear to open the canal wide. Then, sit still for anywhere from five to ten minutes, occasionally shaking your head gently. If you can, hold a cup under your head to catch the bug for identification. If the bug does not leave, you can ask someone to shine a light into your ear. This might draw them out. However, if the insect begins to burrow deeper at the sight of light, turn the flashlight off immediately.

To avoid damage, try pouring oil into the ear to kill the bug. Mineral, baby, and olive oil are options. Once the bug is dead, you can try rinsing it out. Do not attempt this if you have a history of ear problems — you could cause more serious issues in the process. Do not try to remove the bug with tweezers or q-tips. You could shove it further inside, anger it, or damage your eardrum. If you can, simply head to the hospital for the removal process. They will kill the bug with lidocaine or another substance, and remove it from your ear canal.

If the bug has bitten, stung, or pinched you, head to the emergency room immediately. Even if you get the bug out, you need medical care. They will likely administer antibiotics and other medications to reduce swelling and prevent infection. While this is a traumatic experience, it is not as uncommon as you think. Many hospitals have seen people come in with cockroaches, ants, and other bugs stuck in the ear. Just stay calm, and focus on making rational decisions. If you are alone or feel too frightened to attempt removal yourself, call someone to take you to the hospital.

Hearing Loss Caused By Foreign Objects

Getting something stuck in your ear can be a relatively harmless situation, especially if it’s handled carefully and wisely. As long as the object has not torn or ruptured the eardrum, the body will heal. Even if the eardrum has been somewhat damaged, it should heal fairly well. However, there is always a chance of hearing damage when something is shoved in the ear canal. For that reason, it’s important that you minimize the possibility of hearing loss.

As mentioned above, do not stick anything else into the ear, and do not pour oil, water, or alcohol in the ear if you have a history of aural problems. Many harmless cases of foreign objects in the ear have been exacerbated or made worse by untrained interference. People end up hurting themselves to avoid hospital visits, and parents might harm their children while trying to help them.

For that reason, it’s important that you seek medical help. Money, time, and hassle are nothing compared to your sense of hearing. You only have one set of ears, so do your best to care for them.

You cannot predict problems like this, but you can attempt to avoid them. Do not let small children play with beads, certain toys, beans, or other small objects. If it can classify as a choking hazard or fit inside the ear easily, do not give it to them. Avoid leaving children unattended with food.

Adults should avoid using q-tips and bobby pins to remove earwax. Movements of the jaw will remove earwax naturally, and buildups can be removed by a professional. If you have a problem with small bugs in your home, call an exterminator. Those who camp or sleep outside regularly should always sleep with earplugs to avoid insects wandering into their ears.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to care for your ears, consider putting yourself in the aural health loop. The Signia newsletter will give you regular updates on articles about ears, hearing loss, and other information.

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