Pain in your ear? There might be a flying cockroach stuck inside

Pain in your ear? There might be a flying cockroach stuck inside

Apart from insects, cotton buds, ear plugs and even water are some of the common culprits behind ear discomfort.

Got something stuck in your ear?

While it may sound like a simple matter, a foreign body in your ear can cause considerable damage and should be treated as the medical emergency that it is!

The real problem is if an ear foreign body is sharp or if it’s an insect then infection may step in. While children are the ones who come in for this issue the most, adults sometimes run into this problem too.


So, what are the objects that we often have to remove from people’s ears?

Cotton buds

We are sure that you are not surprised to see this item on the list – almost everyone uses cotton buds to clean their ears. However, you stop using them. When you think that you are cleaning your ears, you are in fact pushing earwax further into your ear canal which can damage your ear canal lining. The ear foreign body more often than not leads to an ear infection. Although it does not happen often, the cotton bud can get stuck in your ear.

Insects

Yes, insects can get trapped in your ears – and it can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. In most cases, insects usually get stuck when patients go on camping trips and these annoying little buggers get trapped in the inner ear. It can also happen if you are out jogging or just doing some yard work.

In Singapore, it’s usually cockroaches that gets into your ear. Horrific, we know. Other than having that fluttering in your ear canal, the cockroach will most likely die in there! It’s painful and most likely the longer it’s in there, it will be causing damage that you just don’t need. So, if this happens to you, please seek medical attention right away. The sooner that critter is out of your ear the better.

Earplugs

Earplugs are used extensively to keep out noise, water, wind, and other foreign bodies – but the irony is excessive or regular use can trap instead of keep out foreign bodies. 

Firstly, earplugs tend to push ear wax further into the ear. Sometimes if you are too ambitious with those earplugs you can end up pushing them too far into your ear canal, to the point of no retrieve. If this occurs, you need to seek professional help to get them out.


Little girl swimming

Beads

We know it’s highly unlikely that you will put a bead into your ear, but this is one more for your kids. As children, it’s in their instincts to be curious… This includes putting small little toys like beads in their ears. If your little one gets beads stuck in their ear, please take them to the emergency room immediately as beads can damage the eardrum. 

On that note, it might be a good idea to keep small items like beads, buttons and legos out of their reach without adult supervision. 

Batteries

This may sound like a weird one, right? Hear us out (see what we did there?). Hearing aids, earbuds all have batteries in them. If they get stuck in your ear you need to get them out as soon as possible as they can leak toxic substances. They also hold caustic chemicals that can damage your ear canal and eardrum. Children’s toys also carry small batteries so be sure that they are secured within the device.

Earwax build-up

Sometimes earwax can be problematic when it is excessively produced. It can cause hearing loss, pain, and even infection when it clogs the ear canal. You may suffer from earwax build-up when your ear canal is naturally narrow, or you have an ear injury already. When earwax starts causing complications, it needs to be removed.

Just a reminder, never try to remove the earwax with a Q-tip cotton bud. You won’t be doing yourself any favor. All you will be doing is pushing debris into your ear, which will make your symptoms worse. 

Water

Water may not be considered your typical foreign object, but it does NOT belong in your ear. Bath water especially contains soap and shampoo – when they get into your ear, bacteria may set in. This will eventually lead to a ear infection. 

You can keep water out by doing the following:

  • Keep your ears clean and dry (you can use a hairdryer on a low setting)
  • Use cotton wool plugs with petroleum jelly or earplugs
  • Use a shower cap and cover your ears

How can I remove foreign bodies from my ear?

There is a safe technique called Microsuction, commonly used in earwax removal

The technique involves the use of a microscope and a tiny vacuum. So, your doctor is able to get a good look at the foreign object enabling him to use the suction tool to remove it.

It’s a fast, painless, and efficient process. You will be done before you know it!


References 

  1. Grigg S, Grigg C. Aust J Gen Pract. 2018 Oct;47(10):682-685. doi: 10.31128/AJGP-02-18-4503. PMID: 31195771
  2. Hasson R, McDermott E, Hanley K, Carroll C, Collins C. BJGP Open. 2019 Jul 23;3(2):bjgpopen19X101649. doi: 10.3399/bjgpopen19X101649. Print 2019 Jul. PMID: 31366680

This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr Ben, M.D on 10/11/21