How to Remove Something From Your Ear

Profile of person with brown skin grimacing and holding a finger next to their ear

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There are plenty of ways an object could get stuck in your ear, and in fact, things often get lodged in there. Because a foreign body in the ear can cause significant ear pain, knowing how to treat it can provide relief. 

An object lodged in the ear is something that especially impacts children. That’s because curious kids often place things like rocks, pebbles, beads, or even food in their orifices, including their ears. In addition, insects can fly or crawl into ears.

This article explains the signs of when something is lodged in your ear, tactics you can try to remove it, and when you should consider seeing a healthcare provider for help. 

Signs of Something in the Ear

Whether you have a bug or a rock in your ear, you may or may not experience symptoms. So, while it might seem strange that you wouldn’t notice a foreign object in your ear, sometimes that is the case. 

Other times, however, an object in your ear will cause significant discomfort. For example, if you or your child has something lodged in an ear, you may notice the following symptoms:

Common Objects Found in Ears

These foreign objects routinely end up in some people’s ears:

  • Cotton swabs
  • Small batteries
  • Pebbles
  • Paper
  • Insects
  • Food

If you notice something in your ear, don't panic. There are things you can try at home to remove it. However, if it is lodged or doesn't come out right away, be sure to seek medical attention.

Tilt Your Head

Sometimes using gravity can do the trick to encourage a foreign object in the ear to move outward. This technique is helpful if you can see the object. 

To use gravity to encourage an object out of your ear, tilt your head to the side. You can gently shake your head to try to move it downward, but avoid banging on your head. 

Importantly, this technique uses only gravity and no other assistance. So don't stick anything into your ear in your attempts to get the object out, including:

Keep Tools Away

Never stick anything into your ear to try to get an object out. Doing so could make matters worse by pushing the item deeper, lodging it in a more difficult place, or injuring your sensitive ear canal.

Use Warm Oil

If the object in your ear is an insect, you should turn your head so the affected ear is facing upward. Sometimes the bug will crawl out. If the critter doesn’t emerge, you can try warm oil to see if that helps the insect float out.

Never stick fingers or other objects into the ear when trying to remove a bug. Doing so may cause the insect to bite or sting

To use oil in the ear, follow these steps:

  1. Use a mild oil: Olive oil, mineral oil, or baby oil are good options.
  2. Warm the oil to room temperature: You can warm the oil by holding the bottle between your hands for a few minutes. Warming the oil will make for a more comfortable experience when dropping it into your ear.
  3. Pull the earlobe back: For adults, pull the earlobe back and upward; for children, pull the earlobe back and downward.
  4. Add the oil: Using a dropper, place enough oil in the ear to fill the canal. Wait a few moments to see if the insect floats to the top. If it does, tilt your head and allow the oil and bug to fall out.

If it does not come out, you should seek medical care. However, even if the bug comes out, it is still essential to see your healthcare provider since insects and their parts can irritate the sensitive tissue of the ear canal.

Use Only for Insects

It is essential to use this technique only if you are sure the object is an insect. That’s because other foreign things in the ear may swell in reaction to the oil, thus wedging it more firmly in place. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If the object in your ear does not fall out on its own, you should seek medical attention. The sooner you seek help, the better, since an object left too long in the ear can lead to infection and damage to tissues in the ear, including the delicate eardrum

In addition, see your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Pain
  • Discharge
  • Inability to hear well

Doctors use several methods to extract foreign objects in the ear. These may include:

  • Irrigation: Using a syringe, your doctor will squeeze water into your ear canal and catch it, and any accompanying debris, in a basin held under your ear. Doctors only use irrigation on objects that will not swell when they get wet.
  • Suction: Your doctor may use a headlamp and magnifiers to see the object in your ear. Then they will stick the end of a suction device against the object and slowly remove it from your ear.
  • Forceps: Using a tong-like tool, your doctor may also grasp the object in your ear. Sometimes doctors also use suction or irrigation afterward to remove all debris completely.

Only qualified healthcare providers should perform these interventions; you should never attempt them at home.

Summary

Foreign objects, including bugs, pebbles, and food, commonly end up in people's (especially children's) ears. You can try a couple of things at home, like using gravity to let an object fall out or oil to help an insect float out. However, it's vital never to stick anything in your ear during your attempts, as that can cause an object to lodge even deeper.

A Word From Verywell

It's understandably alarming to have something stuck in your ear, but try not to panic. As tempting as it may be to use fingers or a cotton swab to pick at something in your ear, don't. If tipping your head doesn't cause the object to fall out, it's a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider. They have the proper tools to get it out quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long can an object stay in your ear?

    How long an object can safely remain in the ear depends on the type of object. For example, a hearing aid battery requires urgent removal, while other inorganic things could stay in place for a more extended period. However, the longer an object remains in the ear, the greater the likelihood it will cause injury, infection, or increased pain upon removal.

  • What bugs are most likely to crawl into the ear?

    Cockroaches and flies are the biggest offenders for invading people's ears. Since humans live close to these insects, these encounters are more likely.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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