First Aid: Foreign Object Inside the Ear

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Published on 14/07/2020 . 4 mins read
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Our sense of hearing is often overlooked and taken for granted, but it is one of the most important senses. Taking care of our ears is a must and we must always be prepared with ear first aid.

Foreign Objects in the Ear

Objects stuck in the ear are a common scenario in young children (toddlers and preschoolers) since they like to put things either in their mouth, nose, and, of course, ears. But, adults also encounter the same problem when cleaning their ears using a cotton bud.

The most common objects that can lodge inside a person’s ear are

  • Small toys
  • Food (like seeds and nuts)
  • Paper
  • Cotton
  • Insects.

These things might be put in the ear accidentally or intentionally.

If in need of professional help, an otolaryngologist or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor is the one to call.

How Do Objects Get in the Ear?

For children

Young children often get things inside their ears out of curiosity. Since this age group likes to explore and are curious, they tend to put things in areas where they should not be like their ears or nose.

First Aid: Object in Nose

While toddlers or preschoolers are playing or eating, they might find it fun to put things inside their tiny ears. The common objects found inside a little child’s ear are tiny toys, little trinkets such as beads and buttons, button batteries, and foods such as nuts, seeds, and beans.

Do not leave young children unattended especially when playing or eating. Also, you may need to learn how to apply ear first aid to swiftly give action to ear-related accidents.

Be extra careful as well in cleaning their ears.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Your Ears

For adults

The most common ear scenario in adults is when the tip of a cotton bud gets left behind inside the ear. Cotton buds are the frequent objects ENT’s remove from their patients. This happens often since some adults like to clean their ears thoroughly.

Cotton buds are made to remove ear wax from the insides of your ear. However, doctors discourage the use of cotton buds as it may cause some serious ear problems if not used correctly.

There are also instances where insects make their way inside a person’s ear. Insects may crawl inside the ear when an individual sleeps on the floor or is camping outdoors.


The following symptoms may show up depending on how long an object stays in your ear:

  • Pain and discomfort are the most common symptoms when a thing is lodged in the ear.
  • Bleeding happens when the sides of your ear have scratches or your eardrum gets torn by an object.
  • Sudden deafness or muffled hearing
  • If an insect is still alive inside the ear, then you might feel its movements. You may also feel pain if the insect bites or pierces the inside of your ear.
  • Fluid discharge might also be present if there is an ear infection.

Possible Damage of Objects in Ear

Although an ENT can extract the object from your ear, there is still possible damage that can affect the functions of the ear, like:

Ruptured eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation)

When a sharp object pokes your eardrum then it may cause a tear. This leads to infection and might lead to a ruptured eardrum. A ruptured eardrum can impair your hearing and make your ear vulnerable to infections. However, there are medications and medical procedures that can help heal your eardrum in a matter of weeks.

ear first aid

Ear infection 

  • Acute otitis media. If an object in the ear is left untreated, it might cause pain and infection in the middle ear. Acute otitis media is most common in children than adults. Antibiotics and other treatments will help cure acute otitis media.
  • Otitis externa. It is an ear infection or inflammation in the external ear canal caused by dirty water or rigorous ear cleaning. Otitis externa can be a result of a fungal or bacterial infection. Ear drops containing antibiotics and steroid can help treat otitis externa

Objects in the Ear First Aid

Follow these ear first aid tips:

  • Remove the object using tweezers if it is protruding outside the ear. However, if the object is too deep and reaches the ear canal, it is best to wait for a professional to do the removal.
  • When the object is loose, you can try tilting the head to help the object fall out of the ear.
  • If an insect is in the ear, tilt the head to have the affected ear face upwards. Then, put some warm baby oil, mineral oil, or olive to let the insect float out of the ear.
  • Remember not to use the oil method if a child or an adult has ear tubes in place or perforated eardrums.

If professional help is not yet available, do these steps instead:

  • Make sure that the ear with an object inside remains untouched. Moving the ear repeatedly may cause more damage to the ear as well as pain.
  • If liquid or fluid drips down the ear, let it flow freely. Do not try to remove any fluid from the inside of the ear as it may cause a more serious infection.
  • Use a clean cloth or a gauze if there is bleeding in the ear. Avoid touching the bleeding ear with your bare hands to avoid risks of infection.

Call for immediate medical attention if symptoms worsen and become unbearable.

Key Takeaways

The ear is one of the most delicate parts of the body. A little damage can lead to more serious ear problems, such as loss of hearing and ear infections.

Ear first aid application is important as it lessens the risk possible injuries. Keep in mind that ear first aid is just a preventive measure as you wait for a medical professional to inspect and treat the ear problem.

The ENT will do all possible treatments to help restore the overall health of your ears. Keep in mind to take all medications as advised.

Learn more about Healthy Habits and First Aid, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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