29 June 2005

Foreign objects in the ear

How do you remove an object lodged in someone's ear? We show you how.

Children may put objects into the ear canal. Small children may not realise that something is in the ear. Sometimes insects crawl into the ear canal. An embedded object may cause pain, hearing loss or injury to the eardrum.

Home treatment

  • Tilt the person's head to the affected side. Straighten the ear canal by pulling the ear lobe upwards and backwards. Shake the head gently in this position.
  • A soft object which is clearly visible and within grasp, may be withdrawn carefully with tweezers. Don't use this method if the person cannot keep still. Never use an ear bud, match or similar object as this will push the object in deeper and may cause damage to the eardrum.
  • If a live insect is lodged in the ear (the person may hear the buzzing), pull the lobe backwards and upwards so as to straighten the canal. Shine a light into it. The insect might crawl out towards the light. If this is unsuccessful, pour warm (but not hot) mineral oil, olive oil or baby oil into the ear. The insect should suffocate and wash out with the oil. Don't use oil if you suspect that the eardrum has been perforated, or if the object is not an insect.

See your doctor if:

  • you cannot remove the object.
  • there is pain or fever, bleeding or discharge from the ear. The eardrum may have been perforated.
  • pain or reduced hearing continues.

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