What to Do When Something Is Stuck in Your Ear

Having something stuck in your ear can be painful. It can also be dangerous -- potentially causing hearing loss, bleeding, infection, even damage to the eardrum.

Babies and young children are known to put small objects in their ears like candy, beans, and rocks, and insects like cockroaches, moths, and flies are also known to crawl into the ears of adults and kids.

Regardless of what’s in the ear, it’s important to get it out as quickly as possible. Here are some important steps to follow:

  1. Try to see if the object will fall out simply by tilting your child’s head.
  2. If you can see the object in the ear and think you can remove it easily, carefully pull it out with a pair of tweezers. Be careful not to push it in deeper, and don’t poke at the ear or try to remove the object by force. The ear canal is very sensitive, and this could be painful.
  3. If it is a live insect, kill it before you try to remove it. Put a few drops of warm (not hot) baby oil or vegetable oil in the ear. Have your child tilt and gently shake his head to dislodge the bug. Don't use this method for anything other than an insect, and don't use it if your child is in pain, the ear is bleeding, or if he has tubes in his ear.
  4. If you’re sure the eardrum isn’t injured and your child doesn’t have tubes in his ear, try washing the object out with a little warm water.

You should see your doctor immediately if you can’t easily get the object out by yourself, or if parts of it remain in the ear. You should also get medical help if there’s pain, hearing loss, or discomfort after the object is removed.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on October 20, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford: "Foreign Bodies in the Ear, Nose and Airway."

Boston Children's Hospital: "Insects in the Ear."

St. John Providence Health Systems, Michigan: "Ear Trauma Emergencies."

KidsHealth: "Dealing with Earwax."

Mayo Clinic. “Foreign object in the ear: First aid.”

Medscape. “Ear Foreign Body Removal Procedures.”

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