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Ear Foreign Body

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2023.


An ear foreign body

is an object that is stuck in your ear. Foreign bodies are usually trapped in the outer ear canal. This is the tube from the opening of your ear to your eardrum.

Ear Anatomy

Call your doctor if:

  • You have severe ear pain.
  • You have pus or blood draining from your ear.
  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have trouble hearing, or you have ringing in your ears.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Common ear foreign bodies:

  • Tips of cotton swabs
  • Earplugs
  • Food, such as beans or seeds
  • Small toys, beads, or pieces of toys
  • Button batteries
  • Rocks or pebbles
  • Insects, such as cockroaches

Symptoms of an ear foreign body:

  • Feeling like something is in your ear
  • Trouble hearing
  • Ear pain
  • Redness, itching, or bleeding in your ear
  • Thick drainage or a foul odor coming from your ear
  • Nausea or dizziness


depends on the object and how deep it is in your ear:

  • Medicines may be given to prevent or treat pain, inflammation, or an infection.
  • A procedure may be needed to remove the foreign body. You may be given local numbing medicine or a sedative to keep you calm.
    • A small medical tool may be used to grasp the object and pull it out.
    • Suction with a small catheter (tube) may be used to suck the object out. Suction is most often used when the object is round and smooth.
    • Glue may be applied to a small stick, such as a cotton swab cut at one end. The stick is inserted into your ear. The glue sticks to the object so it can be pulled out.
    • Irrigation is used to flush the object out with a small catheter.
    • Chemicals , such as hydrogen peroxide or acetone, may be used to remove gum or superglue.
    • Liquids , such as mineral oil, warm alcohol, or lidocaine may be used if the object is a live insect. These liquids will kill the insect so it can be removed.
    • A balloon catheter may be inserted into your ear, past the object. The balloon at the end of the tube is filled with air. The balloon is pulled out of your ear and the object comes with it.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.