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Symptoms and Signs of Foreign Body in Ear

Doctor's Notes on Foreign Body in Ear

A foreign body in the ear most often occurs in toddlers who have placed something small in the ear canal. It can also be caused when an insect flies or crawls into the ear. Foreign bodies in the ear are common. Most foreign bodies in the ear lodge in the ear canal and become stuck.

Symptoms of a foreign body in the ear include the sensation of fullness or having something stuck in the ear, pain, and a decrease in hearing on the affected side. Associated symptoms can include vomiting and nausea, cough, and bleeding. If the object persists in the ear and is not removed, an infection may develop, producing more intense ear pain, redness, swelling, or discharge from the war.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Foreign Body in Ear Symptoms

Fortunately, most people can tell if there is something in their ear. The ear canal, where most objects get stuck, is very sensitive. The ear canal ends at the eardrum, which is also highly sensitive. The symptoms of having a foreign body in the ear largely depend on the size, shape, and substance involved.

  • Occasionally, a foreign body in the ear will go undetected and can cause an infection in the ear. In this situation, you may notice ongoing infectious drainage from the ear.
  • Pain is the most common symptom. If the object is blocking most of the ear canal, you may experience a decrease in hearing on that side.
  • Additionally, irritation to the ear canal can also make you nauseated, which could cause you to vomit. Some people may also cough or clear their throat because of stimulation of a nerve in the ear canal that also has a branch in the throat.
  • Bleeding is also common, especially if the object is sharp or if you try to remove it by sticking something else into your ear.
  • One of the most distressing experiences with this problem is having a live insect in the ear. The insect's movement can cause a buzzing in the ear and may be quite uncomfortable. Fortunately, dripping mineral oil into the affected ear will usually kill the insect. This is safe as long as you do not have a hole in your eardrum.

Foreign Body in Ear Causes

  • The vast majority of objects found in ears are placed there voluntarily, usually by children, for an endless variety of reasons. A caregiver should not threaten a child when asking about this possibility, because the child may deny having put something in the ear in order to avoid punishment. This denial could easily result in a delay of its discovery and increase the risk of complications.
  • Insects are well known to crawl into the ear, usually when you are asleep. Sleeping on the floor or outdoors would increase the chance of this unpleasant experience.

Ear Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Slideshow

Ear Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Slideshow

Sometimes it seems like kids are always getting ear infections. Ear infections are very common in children. Children get ear infections about two out of every three times they have a cold. Children are more prone to ear infections because their small ears do not drain fluid as well as adult ears. Kids’ immune systems are also immature, and this increases the likelihood of certain infections.

There are three types of ear infections. Each type is defined according to where they occur in the ear canal. An ear infection may take place in the inner, middle, or outer ear. Each type of ear infection may exhibit different symptoms.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.