Removal of Foreign Body in Ear

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Overview of a Foreign Body in the Ear

As an adult, you will usually quickly perceive the presence of a foreign body in your ear. It may cause pain and affect your ability to hear. However, a small child may be unaware or fail to communicate the fact to an adult. Some of the more common objects found in children’s ears include the small lithium batteries found in many devices and toys; plant or food substances; stones; seeds; and pieces of folded paper.

Symptoms of Foreign Body in the Ear

Fortunately, you will almost know if you have a foreign body in your ear, as the ear canal and eardrum are both extremely sensitive.

Other signs, depending on the shape, size, and material of the object, may include:

  • Pain/discomfort
  • Drainage coming from your ear
  • Decrease in hearing in your blocked ear
  • Dizziness
  • Bleeding
  • Nausea
  • Buzzing, if the foreign object is a live insect
  • Swelling or redness

Treatment of a Foreign Body in the Ear (Adult)

Having a foreign object in your ear can not only be vexing, but also dangerous, with the potential to produce loss of hearing, infection, bleeding, and damage to your eardrum, leading to even more severe difficulties.

Home remedies for Foreign Body in the Ear for Adults

  • Tilt your head and shake, pulling slightly on your earlobe to try to dislodge
  • If the object can be seen and reached, gently try to remove with a pair of blunt-end tweezers (Do not probe or push into the ear with a cotton swab, bobby pin or any other small tool, which is likely to drive the object farther in, possibly causing injury to the middle ear.)
  • Flush with warm water from an ear bulb. (Do not do this if ear tubes are in place, or there is bleeding, pain or, discharge, which indicates a perforated eardrum.)
  • For insect removal, tilt head upward and pour warm (not hot) baby, mineral, or olive oil into the passage, lightly tugging on the lobe to straighten the ear canal

Prevention of Foreign Body in the Ear (Children)

The song that goes, “My mother says not to put beans in my ears,” is one born of life experience. Children are constantly inserting unsafe objects into their small body orifices, making it imperative that “tempting” items are out of reach, and that they are told of the danger, without making them fearful of disclosing it should they disobey. (Any caregiver of a child knows this task seems to require 24/7 patience and vigilance.)

In the cases of lithium batteries or plant or food matter, go straight to your physician or emergency room. Leaking or decomposing batteries produce chemicals that may cause burns or other serious injuries, while some plants and foods tend to expand when they become moist.

Medical treatment of Foreign Body in the Ear

The necessity to see a medical professional depends on the object’s location and its nature. Should you have concerns about removing the foreign object or the aftermath of doing so, consult a physician in person; an accurate assessment will not be possible through a phone conversation or email.

Commonly used removal techniques include the use of:

  • Gentle suction
  • Small forceps
  • A “hooked” implement
  • Irrigation with a small catheter
  • A magnetized instrument (for metal objects)

Since children often struggle during treatment, sedation is sometimes used to help the child remain comfortable and relaxed, increasing the prospect of success while decreasing the risk of complications.


A repeat exam is recommended within a week if you are experiencing no difficulties, and immediately should you experience discomfort, bleeding, drainage, dizziness, or significant hearing loss.


Otolaryngology (Ent) Surgeons

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