What is a Foreign Body in the Ear and What to Do If You Find One?

Foreign bodies in the ear, relatively common in an emergency room, are most often, but not exclusively, seen in children. Various objects can be found in the ear, including toys, beads, stones, folded paper, and biological materials such as insects or seeds. Most foreign objects in the ear and nose can be removed with minimal risk of complications. Common removal methods include forceps, water irrigation, and a suction catheter.

What is a Foreign Body In The Ear?

A foreign body in the ear is a small object stuck in the ear canal. This can happen to people of any age, but it is more common in children. Symptoms of a foreign body in the ear may include ear pain, hearing loss, dizziness, and a feeling of fullness in the ear. If you think you or someone else may have a foreign body in the ear, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Attempting to remove the object yourself can be dangerous and may cause further injury. A healthcare provider can safely remove the object and provide any necessary treatment.

Most of these kinds of things are harmless.

Some are extremely uncomfortable, while others can quickly cause infection requiring emergency treatment.

If you believe someone has foreign body damage, contact medical assistance immediately. Most objects stuck in the ear canal are placed there by the person themselves. Children curious about their bodies and interesting objects are the group most at risk for experiencing this. The most common things they put in their ears include:

  • Pearls
  • Paper
  • Q-tips
  • Erasers
  • Food (especially seeds)
  • Small toys
  • Marbles
  • Small seashells
  • Ear wax: Earwax is a natural substance that can become a problem when it builds up in your ear canal and blocks the path of hearing. Some people have found that excessive use of cotton swabs like Q-Tips can push it further into the ear, increasing pain and pressure on your eardrum.
  • Insects: Insects can also fly or crawl in the ear canal. This event tends to be very scary and dramatic because when the insects start buzzing and moving all around, it’s hard not to feel scared!

Causes

Some objects placed in the ear may not cause signs. Other objects, such as food and bugs, can cause ear pain, hearing loss, redness, or drainage. Hearing can be affected if the object blocks the ear canal.

Diagnosis

Some objects placed in the ear may not cause signs. Other objects, such as food and bugs, can cause ear pain, hearing loss, redness, or drainage. Hearing can be affected if the object blocks the ear canal.

Treatment

Treatment of an object in the ear usually involves removing the object. The ease or difficulty of this process depends on where the object is in the body. If the item cannot be removed at home and medical attention is required, treatment may include the following:

  • A suction machine can remove the object from the nose or the ear.
  • Retractors can also remove an object.
  • Magnets can sometimes remove metal objects.

Sometimes surgery is necessary if other removal methods do not work. Further processing may involve dealing with any damage caused by the object.

When to visit a Doctor?

If an object gets lodged in your ear, it’s generally a good idea to call a doctor for advice on handling the situation. In some cases, attempting to remove the object yourself can cause further damage or irritation. If the object is not causing any symptoms, you may be able to wait until the next morning to assess it. However, if you are experiencing any pain, discomfort, or other symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

If you have a concern that requires medical attention, don’t hesitate to go to your nearest TGH URGENT Care Walk-in Clinic. If you’re planning to visit one of our locations, you can sign in ahead of time through our On My Way system to reduce your wait time once you arrive.. During the day, doctors can identify and evaluate your issue immediately, but it’s always best to talk to somebody face-to-face. If you’re experiencing persistent pain, bleeding, or discharge from the ear, it could mean that the ear passages haven’t been cleaned properly or that an object remains inside your ear canal. A physical examination by a doctor is recommended in these cases.

A foreign object in the ear can also damage the eardrum, which may or may not affect hearing. Since you cannot see the eardrum from the outside, an ear exam is recommended.

In most cases, the situation of having something in the ear will not be life-threatening. Usually, you will have time to call 911. The urgency of the situation depends mainly on the location of the object and the substance involved.

  • Button batteries commonly found in many small devices and toys can break down enough in the body to allow chemicals to escape and cause burns. Urgent withdrawal is advised.
  • Urgent disposal is also recommended for food or plant materials (such as seeds) as these swell when moistened.
  • An urgent examination is indicated if the object causes significant pain or discomfort or if there is severe hearing loss or dizziness.

Prevention:

Here are a few important steps to take when you have an object in your ear:

  • Try to see if the object will fall just by tilting your child’s head.
  • If you can see the object in the ear and think you can remove it easily, gently remove it with tweezers. Be careful not to push it any deeper, push the ear, or try to remove the object by force. The ear canal is very sensitive and it can be painful.
  • If it is in your ear, put a few drops of warm oil in the ear canal. Gently tilt and shake your head to loosen the bug from the area. If your child is bleeding, or has tubes placed into their ears, or feels any pain when you are trying to remove the bug from their ear, not using this technique may even make things worse.
  • If you’re reassured that your child’s eardrum wasn’t hit and she or he has no ear tube inserted, try washing the object off with a little bit of lukewarm water.

* If you cannot easily remove the object or have pain, hearing loss, and/or discomfort after removal, you should see your doctor immediately. You should also get medical help if bits of it remain in your ear.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long can a foreign object stay in your ear?

A foreign object cannot fall out of your ear on its own. It can stay in your ear until you don’t take it out or take it out. Small, inert foreign bodies, such as pearls, can stay in your ear for 1 to 2 weeks without causing complications.

2. How do you get something deep out of your ear?

Try to see if the object will fall by tilting your child’s head. If you can see the object in the ear and think you can remove it easily, gently remove it with tweezers. Be careful not to push it any deeper, push the ear out, or try to remove the object forcefully.

Conclusion

TGH Urgent Care is the best place for foreign body removal. We have a team of experienced and qualified doctors who will help you get through your situation as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

 

Offering Convenient Hours

TGH Urgent Care is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., so it’s easy to find time for the treatment you need. We see patients on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can sign in using our On My Way system before you arrive to reduce your wait time.

Contact TGH Urgent Care today or click here to find your nearest location.

Citations

Foreign Bodies in the Ear, Nose, and Throat | AAFP

 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/article-abstract/611076

 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/lary.5541030401

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165587698001189

Citations

 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/article-abstract/611076

 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/lary.5541030401

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165587698001189

 

 

 

Disclaimer

The blogs presented by TGH Urgent Care in partnership with Fast Track are not a replacement for medical care and are exclusively intended for educational purposes. The content provided here should not be construed as medical guidance. If you are encountering any symptoms, we strongly recommend that you seek an appointment with a duly qualified medical practitioner at our nearest facility.

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