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How to Manage A Foreign Body in the Ear

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It is a common scenario to find an object stuck inside the ear which happens often among children. A foreign body in the ear usually does not present a major problem and the object may be taken out safely, especially when it gets stuck along the outer portion of the ear. The problem usually takes place when the object is lodged inside the ear canal which is a sensitive area. Removing any foreign body in the ear safely is important, otherwise it can cause significant discomfort, pain and possible injury to the sensitive areas of the ear.

What to do when a foreign object is inside the ear

foreign body in the ear
A foreign body in the ear can be painful

Removing the foreign body very carefully is important in order to prevent injury to the ear. Objects in the ear may be too close to the tympanic membrane and any abrasion to the ear canal can result in erythema, swelling and bleeding. Here are some first aid management that you can do in case something like this happens. Removing the foreign body in the ear

  • If you are able to see the object, carefully remove it by using tweezers slowly. Never try to remove the object by force and do not poke the ear.
  • You may also tilt the head (towards the affected ear) to make the object fall out.
  • In the event that you cannot see the object or you feel pain removing it, call your health care provider immediately.
  • Never attempt to remove the earwax if you think it is causing the discomfort.
  • Do not use applicator or cotton swabs as they may push the blocked earwax further inside the ear.
  • Call your health care provider immediately.

Removing an insect from inside the ear

  • If the foreign object happens to be a live insect, you may kill it first by dropping a small quantity of baby oil or vegetable oil. The oil will suffocate the insect and will cause it to float, making its removal easier.
  • Warm the oil first before dropping it in the ear canal.
  • Pull the earlobe gently backward and upward in an adult or in a backward and downward direction for children below 3 years old. This will promote ease of entry of the oil into the ear canal.
  • You may tilt the head of the person in a way that it will make the insect float in the oil.


  • Using an oil in removing other foreign objects from the ear is not advisable. It should only be used when removing a live insect and must not be done when a person has an eardrum perforation and when pain or ear discharge is present.

Should these methods fail, or if the person continues to have pain, bleeding, hearing loss and suspected perforation of the eardrum, call 911 immediately or contact your health care provider as soon as possible. Reference WebMD. Ear Foreign Body Treatment. Retrieved June 18, 2014 from http://www.webmd.com/first-aid/foreign-body-ear-treatment

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