Foreign Body, Ear (cont.)
Ear Foreign Body Treatment
Self-Care at Home
It is often said that you should never put anything in your ear that is smaller than your elbow. The main reason to avoid blindly putting something into your ear is that it usually results in pushing any object deeper into the ear canal. This not only can damage the eardrum, but also make ultimate removal of the object more difficult. This is particularly true of earwax.
- Earwax is usually the consistency of toothpaste. When a Q-Tip or similar object is used to get the wax out, most of the wax is packed deeply into the ear canal. It then often hardens and is much more difficult to remove.
- The shape of the ear canal is slightly changed by pulling back on the ear's pinna (the circular part of the ear on the side of the head). By placing the affected ear down and gently wiggling the ear pinna, you may be able to shift the object enough to cause it to fall out.
- If an object becomes lodged in the ear and this technique fails, it is usually best to have it removed by a doctor who can view the object with proper lighting and instruments.
- Having a live insect in your ear can be extremely uncomfortable. People are often desperate to get the bug to stop moving. If you do not have a known hole in your eardrum, it is usually safe to place a few drops of mineral oil into the ear. This will kill the bug and allow you to calmly and safely get to a medical office for further care.
- If you have something in your ear (or your child does), and it appears that a doctor's visit will be necessary, avoid eating or drinking anything for 8 hours before the evaluation, if possible. Some objects require sedation for safe removal. Sedation is much safer if you have not swallowed anything for 8-12 hours before the procedure.
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor III, MD