Ear foreign body

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Ear foreign body
Other names: Foreign object in the ear, external auditory canal foreign body
In red is the typical location of a foreign body in the ear
SpecialtyENT surgery
SymptomsNone, ear pain, ear discharge, decreased hearing[1]
ComplicationsBleeding, skin breakdown, eardrum perforation[1]
Diagnostic methodExamination[1]
TreatmentPain management, removal, antibiotics[2]
FrequencyRelatively common (children)[3]

Ear foreign body is a foreign body in the external ear canal.[2] Symptoms may vary from none to pain and discharge from the ear.[1] Hearing may be decreased.[1] Complications may include bleeding or skin breakdown.[1]

Objects found in the ear may include beads, cotton swabs, paper, sand, insects, and button batteries.[4][3] Foreign bodies usually become stuck at the narrowing between the cartilage of the pinna of the ear and the bones of the skull.[2] Diagnosis is generally by examination of the ear with an otoscope.[1]

Warmed 1 to 2% lidocaine liquid may be placed in the ear to help numb it before attempted removal.[1][2] Procedural sedation may also be used to facilitate the procedure.[1] A number of techniques may be used for the removal itself including suction, irrigation, and forceps.[1][4] Antibiotic ear drops may be used if their are signs of skin breakdown.[2] Complications of attempted removal may include eardrum perforation.[1]

Ear foreign bodies occur relatively commonly.[3] They occur most often in children and are the most common type of foreign body in this age group.[5][3] Descriptions of ear foreign bodies are found in Ancient literature, including the writing of Hippocrates around 400 BC.[6]


Attempts to irrigate out a foreign body should not be attempted for organic mater that could swell if wet, batteries, or if a eardrum perforation is suspected.[4]

Warmed mineral oil may work well to kill an insect in the ear, after which removal may be carried out.[4]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Oyama, LC (February 2019). "Foreign Bodies of the Ear, Nose and Throat". Emergency medicine clinics of North America. 37 (1): 121–130. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2018.09.009. PMID 30454775.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "PEM Playbook - Foreign Bodies in the Head and Neck". emDOCs.net - Emergency Medicine Education. 30 March 2018. Archived from the original on 24 November 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Lotterman, S; Sohal, M (January 2022). "Ear Foreign Body Removal". PMID 29083719. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "How To Remove a Foreign Body From the External Ear - Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders". Merck Manuals Professional Edition. Archived from the original on 30 October 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  5. Heim, SW; Maughan, KL (15 October 2007). "Foreign bodies in the ear, nose, and throat". American family physician. 76 (8): 1185–9. PMID 17990843.
  6. The Journal of Ophthalmology, Otology, and Laryngology. 1915. p. 419. Archived from the original on 2022-05-10. Retrieved 2022-05-10.

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