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First Aid & Emergencies

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Ear Foreign Body Treatment

1. Remove Object if Possible

  • If you can see the foreign body in the ear and remove it easily, carefully do so using tweezers. Never poke at the ear or try to remove the object by force.
  • Tilt the head to try to help the object fall out.
  • If it is a live insect, you can kill it for easier removal by putting a few drops of baby oil or vegetable oil in the ear. Have the person tilt and gently shake his or her head to dislodge the object. Don't use this method for anything other than an insect, and don't use it if there is any pain or bleeding or if the person has tubes in the ear.
  • If you can't see the object or can't remove it easily, or if removing it will cause pain, call your health care provider.

2. Do Not Try to Remove Earwax

  • If you believe earwax is causing ear discomfort or hearing loss, see a health care provider. Don't use cotton swabs. They can push earwax deeper into the ear. Other earwax removal methods can cause ear damage.

3. When to See a Health Care Provider

See a health care provider immediately if:

  • You cannot remove the foreign body easily by yourself or if parts of the object remain in the ear.
  • Pain is severe.
  • Pain, hearing loss, or discomfort continues after the object is removed.

4. Follow Up

If the person sees a health care provider, the next steps depend on the particular case.

  • The health care provider will remove the object by using tweezers, by flushing it with water, or by using another removal method.
  • The health care provider may give the person antibiotic eardrops if the ear has been injured or shows signs of infection.
  • If earwax is affecting hearing or causing discomfort, the health care provider may use a special tool to remove it.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on November 21, 2013

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