What is a foreign object?

A foreign object is anything that finds its way into the ear that doesn’t belong there. This is a relatively common problem that we typically see in children but is certainly not restricted to the young.

Sometimes objects are accidentally caught in the external canal and these can include:

  • the ends of cotton buds or pieces of cotton wool
  • hearing aid tips
  • small toy parts
  • insects
  • food
  • earplugs (typically silicone earplugs used by swimmers)
  • rarely, thankfully, hearing aid batteries

The ear canal is highly sensitive and as a result, most people can tell if there is something in their ear that shouldn’t be.

Someone with a foreign object in their ear may experience:

  • A decrease in hearing on the impacted side
  • Pain or discomfort
  • An outer ear infection
  • A bloody or yellow discharge
  • Redness or swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • In the case of an insect in the year, you may experience a buzzing sound or movement
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How do we remove a foreign body?

Due to the sensitivity of the ear, these foreign bodies most often require expert removal under the operating microscope. Its superior illumination and magnification is essential to correctly identify exactly what we are dealing with and where in the canal the foreign object is sitting.

Fine operating tools such as surgical tweezers and forceps as well as suctioning are used to remove the object. If you or a family member believes they may have a foreign object lodged in an ear, it is advisable to contact us as soon as possible, so that one of our doctors can facilitate removal – rather than potentially create further problems by attempting to remove it yourself.