I Have Something in My Ear

Getting a foreign object in your ear can range from uncomfortable to painful, but in either case it presents a danger to your hearing, so it needs to come out. There are steps you can take to try and remove it at home, but in some cases you may need professional assistance.

A foreign object in the ear may be an insect or some other debris. To try and remove it yourself, start by simply tilting your head downward or shaking it gently to dislodge the item. If that doesn’t work, tug the ear gently back and forth or up and down — this manipulates the ear canal and may help let the object loose.

If those steps don’t work, but you can see the item, you may be able to remove it manually. Use blunt-end tweezers to grip it and ply it out — don’t attempt to use any other tools such as bobby pins, pens, q-tips, or matches. You may think you can sweep the object out, but these items are more likely to push it further into the ear canal.

If you know the foreign object is an insect, you may be able to remove it using an oil bath: lay the person’s head down with the trouble ear facing up, then slowly pour slightly warm, but not hot, oil (baby oil, mineral oil, or olive oil are good choices) into it. You may need to help open the ear canal by pulling gently on the ear to move it around. This method drowns the insect and floats it out. Don’t try to do this with a person who has ear tubes in place though, or if you suspect the eardrum might be perforated.

Most adults will know if they have something in their ear, but a child may not be able to tell, or they may not realize what’s happened. One you know the object is there, though, it’s important to keep them calm as you remove it: a squirming, crying, and even heavily breathing patient can make it difficult, and more dangerous, to remove. Unless the item is causing them pain or other alarming symptoms, it likely doesn’t need to come out immediately, so you can give them a few minutes to calm down.

If you can’t get the object out without causing pain, bleeding, or pushing it farther in, or if it begins to affect the person’s ability to hear, it’s best to see a professional for removal.


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