It can be annoying and sometimes dangerous if there is a foreign object in your ear. Especially children sometimes put something in their ears, which then gets stuck. Fortunately, it is not usually a medical emergency. The object can be easily removed from the ear at the doctor's office or at home, and usually there is no lasting effect on your hearing or health. However, if you cannot see what is in your ear, you should have it removed by the doctor.
Part 1 of 3: What to do first
Step 1. Check what's in the ear
You can't always immediately know how or why something got stuck in the ear, but treatment depends on what object is in the ear. If possible, identify the item before deciding how to remove it.
- Most objects stuck in the ear are tucked in on purpose, usually by young children and toddlers. This can be food, a hair clip, a bead, a small toy, a pencil or a cotton swab. If you know what your child was doing before it happened, you may know what's in the ear.
- Earwax can build up in the ear canal and become hard. Accumulated earwax can also be caused by too much or incorrect use of cotton swabs. Symptoms of accumulated earwax include a feeling of fullness in the ear, or pressure on an ear. Sometimes it can also cause dizziness and impaired hearing.
- An insect can be a dangerous and annoying thing to have in your ear, but you soon know what it is. You can hear and feel the beast moving and buzzing in the ear.
Step 2. Determine if you need immediate medical attention
Although it can be annoying, it is usually not dangerous to have a foreign object in your ear. If you can't remove it yourself, it usually doesn't hurt to see your doctor until the next day. However, in some cases you need to go to the emergency room immediately to avoid serious physical damage.
- If the object in the ear is sharp, go to the doctor or emergency room as soon as possible, because then complications can arise very quickly.
- Young children sometimes stick flat batteries in the ear. These are the small round batteries that are often found in watches and small household appliances. If such a battery is in your child's ear, seek medical attention immediately. The chemicals in the battery can leak out and seriously damage the ear canal.
- Get help immediately if food or plant material is stuck in the ear. These things swell when they come into contact with fluid, which can damage the ear.
- If you experience symptoms such as swelling, fever, discharge, bleeding, hearing loss, dizziness, and rapidly increasing pain, see your doctor or emergency room right away.
Step 3. Know what not to do
Often an object in the ear irritates us so much that we take action without thinking carefully about the consequences. Many do-it-yourself treatments that you can get at the pharmacy or drug store will do more harm than good if an object is stuck in your ear.
- Do not use cotton swabs to remove a foreign object from your ear. Cotton swabs can help to clean your ears, but not to remove a foreign object. You can even push the object deeper into your ear with it.
- Do not try to eject your ear yourself. Many drugstores and pharmacies sell sets to eject your ear using a suction cup or pipette. While these products can help with day-to-day care of your ears, if you are trying to remove something from your ear, don't use them without your doctor's guidance.
- Don't use ear drops if you don't know what's causing the discomfort. A foreign object in the ear can resemble other ear conditions. Ear drops can make the problem worse, especially if the object has perforated your eardrum.
Part 2 of 3: Trying home remedies
Step 1. Shake it out
The first thing you can try is tilt your head forward and use gravity to get the object out. Sometimes that's enough to make the object fall out.
- Pull on the outer edge of your ear (not the lobe, but the rounded top of your ear) to change the shape of your ear canal. If you wiggle a little, the object can come loose, and then fall out with the help of gravity.
- Don't hit your head. You can shake gently, but hitting your head hard can do even more damage.
Step 2. Remove the object with tweezers
Only use this method if part of the object is sticking out of the ear, and if you can easily remove it with tweezers. Do not insert the tweezers into your ear canal. Do not do this if something is stuck in a child's ear. Then go to the doctor.
- First clean the tweezers with warm water and antibacterial soap. A foreign object can sometimes cause a perforated eardrum, or a bleeding or damaged ear canal. This makes your ear susceptible to infections.
- Grab the object with the tweezers and pull. Be careful and work slowly so that the object doesn't break before you get it out.
- Do not use this method on an object that is so deep that you cannot see the tip of the tweezers when you try to remove it. Also, don't do this if the person you're doing it to can't sit still. In these cases it is better to go to the doctor.
Step 3. Apply oil to kill an insect
If there is an insect in your ear, it can be very annoying because it flies around and buzzes. There is also the risk of being stung. Killing the insect will make it easier to remove.
- Do not pick an insect out with your fingers, as it may sting.
- Tilt your head so that the ear with the beast in it is up. For an adult, pull the pinna back and up. On a child, pull the pinna back and down.
- Mineral oil, olive oil, or baby oil works best. Mineral oil is preferred if you have it. Make the oil warm, but not hot, as you should not burn the ear. You only need a small drop, about as much as putting in ear drops.
- Ideally, the insect drowns or suffocates in the oil, floating to the surface of the ear.
- Only use this method if you want to remove an insect from your ear. If you have ear pain, blood, or other discharge, you may have a perforated eardrum. Then it is dangerous to use oil; do not use oil if you experience these symptoms.
- See your doctor after using this method to see if all parts of the insect have come out of your ear.
Step 4. Prevent these kinds of accidents from happening
Tell children not to put things in their ears, mouth, and other openings. Keep a close eye on children under five when they are playing with small objects. Be especially careful with small batteries; keep them in a safe place out of the reach of small children.
Part 3 of 3: Getting medical help
Step 1. Prepare for the appointment
If none of the home remedies have helped, it's important to see a doctor. Before you do that, you need to gather the necessary information. If the object is in a child's ear, ask for details before going to the doctor. Your child is more likely to tell you something than to the doctor.
- Most importantly, tell your doctor what's in the ear and how long it's been there. That will give your doctor an idea of how dangerous the situation is.
- You should also tell your doctor what preceded the accident. Have any side effects been reported? Have you tried to delete the item? If so, how did you do that and what was the outcome?
Step 2. See if the ear needs to be ejected
The doctor may suggest squirting out the ear with water or saline to remove the foreign object. This is a relatively quick and simple procedure.
- Usually a syringe is filled with clean warm water, which is injected into the ear canal.
- If successful, all foreign objects will be flushed out during the spraying out.
- Never eject your ear at home. Leave this to an expert.
Step 3. Have your doctor remove the object with tweezers
While tweezers may not have worked at home, your doctor will likely have special tools that can help get a foreign object out of your ear.
- An otoscope, a medical instrument that illuminates and examines the ear, is usually used in combination with special tweezers. The doctor can see the tweezers well so that important or sensitive tissues are not damaged.
- The object can be carefully removed with special tweezers for the ear.
- If the object is metal, the doctor can also use a long magnetic instrument. This makes removal much easier.
Step 4. See if your doctor can suck the object out
Your doctor will insert a small catheter into your ear to suck out the foreign object.
This is commonly used to remove solid objects such as buttons and beads, rather than organic matter such as food or living things such as insects
Step 5. Prepare for an anesthetic
This especially happens in young children and toddlers. It is sometimes difficult for children to remain calm in these kinds of situations. The doctor then recommends that the child be anesthetized to prevent the ear from being damaged by the movement.
- Do not let your child eat or drink for 8 hours before going to the doctor, if your doctor has told you that anesthesia is a possibility.
- Follow your doctor's instructions when you leave the practice. Your doctor may want you to keep a close eye on your child's behavior to avoid complications. Listen carefully and ask questions if you have them.
Step 6. Follow instructions in case of perforated eardrum
Sometimes the foreign object protrudes through the eardrum. If you have a perforated eardrum, your doctor will probably want to treat it.
- Symptoms of a perforated eardrum include pain, discomfort, a feeling of fullness in the ear, dizziness, and fluid or blood coming out of the ear.
- In general, a perforated eardrum will resolve on its own within two months. But your doctor can advise you to take a course of antibiotics to prevent infections. He/she will also advise you to keep the ear clean and dry while it heals.
Step 7. Talk to your doctor about the cure
After you see your doctor, he/she will probably advise you not to swim or put your head under water for 7-10 days. That reduces the chance of an infection. Cover the ear with a cotton ball and Vaseline when showering or taking a bath.
Most doctors want you to come back after a week to see if the ear is healing well, and there is no pus, blood, or pain
- Do not remove foreign objects with your fingers. Then you usually just push the object deeper into it.
- Because young children are often not very good at telling what's going on, you need to know what symptoms they show when something is in the ear. Watch for symptoms such as uncontrollable crying, redness, swelling of the ear, and earlobe pulling.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you develop flu-like symptoms with a foreign object in your ear.