MedClinic > Blog > ENT > Foreign body of the ear


A foreign body in the ear is the most widespread and common reason for going to the doctor, especially for young children who can put small beads, buttons, paper in their ears while playing. The occurrence of foreign objects in adults is also frequent – an insect can get into the ear canal or a small amount of cotton wool can remain after cleaning.

Clinical picture

Symptoms of having a foreign body in the ear canal vary depending on how large the object is and how far it has penetrated the cavity. In some cases, if a solid, small object that got into the ear may not make itself felt within 1-2 weeks.

Symptoms appear when a bedsore appears in the ear canal under the pressure of the object, as a result, an infection develops, due to which the mucous membrane begins to become inflamed. The main symptoms of a foreign body in the ear are as follows:

  • earache;
  • swelling;
  • bloody discharge;
  • discharge of pus from the ear canal;
  • constant feeling of discomfort;
  • noise in ears;
  • dizziness;
  • cramps (rarely);
  • sensation of having a cork in the ear canal;
  • hearing loss.

The presence of a foreign body in the ear, which wasn’t diagnosed and removed on time, brings not only a sense of discomfort and pain but can also lead to serious consequences. The inflammatory process in the ear canal can lead to the development of purulent otitis media.

If a foreign object of plant origin gets into the ear, it irritates the inner ear glands, which leads to their enlargement, swelling and secretion of an excessive amount of secret. Insects, getting into the ear canal, can move along it, causing discomfort and severe pain, secrete special substances that lead to the formation of an inflammatory and purulent process.

How to determine it?

Diagnosis of a foreign body of the ear should be carried out as quickly as possible. The otorhinolaryngologist examines the patient and otoscopy procedure is appointed, which allows to see the object, determine its size and location in the ear canal. Otoscopy is not performed in cases where the foreign body has been in the ear canal for a long time and inflammation or diffuse otitis media has occurred. In such cases, computed tomography is performed for diagnosis.


What to do with the diagnosis of a foreign body of the ear? First of all, it is worth noting that it is strictly forbidden to make independent attempts to remove an object from the ear canal, as this is fraught with the fact that the object can further advance along the ear canal.

If an object has moved deeper into the ear canal, it can only be removed by surgery. You can try to get a foreign object of their ear on your own only if it is metal – in such cases, it is recommended to bring a magnet to your ear.

The doctor removes small particles of cotton wool, paper, matches with medical tweezers, this procedure is completely painless. When round objects get into the ear canal, they are removed using a special device – a Janet syringe. Local anaesthesia is used for children since this procedure is unpleasant and quite painful.

To remove foreign bodies that are capable of swelling in the ear canal (for example, peas), they are first dehydrated using 40% alcohol and only then removed. Before removing the insect, a few drops of heated alcohol or oil are instilled into the ear to kill it, after which the ear canal is washed out. If the tympanic membrane is damaged, washing out is prohibited; special forceps are used to remove the foreign body.