Foreign Body in the the Ear

In the Ear, Nose, and Throat office, the doctor will typically see about one patient a month with a foreign body in the ear.  Whether that foreign body is a bug, bean, bead, rock, sand or other object depends on which age group is involved.  A large proportion of foreign bodies in the ear are seen in children four years old.  This age group has a tendency to put objects in unusual places.

A foreign body in the ear can be very aggravating, especially if it is a bug which is trying to find its way out of the ear and is digging into the ear canal.  The complaints can vary from mild to severe depending on what is in the ear.  Pain, noise and itching are common. It is usually not hard to identify the problem. The difficulty comes on removing the object. If the foreign body is round like a bead, it can be very difficult to remove. The key to removal is to get behind the foreign body and pull it out of the canal without pushing it in. Most people try and grab the foreign body and usually the object is pushed further into the canal until it hits the ear drum which may be damaged.

The ear drum is very sensitive to pain and pressure.  An object sitting against the eardrum can be most aggravating and painful.  Usually what is needed is a little topical local anesthetic dropped into the ear and left for ten or fifteen minutes. The ear can then be worked on without much pain being experienced by the patient.

Frequently people will try a variety of methods to get the foreign body out of the ear and end up causing an abrasion of the canal or a rupturing of the tympanic membrane. The abrasion can develop into an infection.  Once the foreign body has been removed, an antibiotic drop along with antibiotics by mouth may be needed to prevent serious infection of the ear.