There are a few different ways that the bug can get into the ear. It could crawl in overnight while a person is asleep, or fly into their ear when they are spending time outside.
If a bug does get into the ear, it may die right away. However, there is also a chance that it will stay alive and continue to move around.
In most instances, a bug in the ear will not cause any significant problems, but it can occasionally lead to complications. Regardless of the dangers, most people want to remove the bug from their ear as soon as possible.
How to tell if you have a bug in your ear
A bug in the ear may cause pain and discomfort.
In some instances, a person may not notice the bug entering the ear and may only experience symptoms later on. The most common symptoms of a bug in the ear are pain and discomfort.
The external ear and the outer side of the eardrum have several cranial nerves that relay information to the brain. A foreign object, such as a bug, can irritate these nerves.
The insect might still be alive and may be crawling or buzzing, which could cause odd sensations in the ear.
Depending on the type of bug, it may also repeatedly bite or sting while it remains trapped in the ear, which can be very painful.
Additional symptoms of a bug in the ear may include:
How to remove a bug safely
It is essential to stay calm when trying to remove a bug, be it from someone else’s ear or your own.
Although having a bug in the ear is unsettling, becoming anxious will only make the situation more difficult.
To remove a bug from the ear, follow these steps:
- Tilt your head to the affected side and gently shake your head to dislodge the bug. Do not hit your ear as this can lead to additional problems.
- If the bug is still alive, try pouring a tiny amount of vegetable oil into the ear to suffocate it.
- If the bug is dead, try to flush it out of the ear using warm water.
- Avoid sticking tweezers, cotton-tipped swabs, or other objects into the ear. these can push the bug further towards the eardrum, potentially leading to injuries and hearing loss.
If the bug is in the ear of a child with a history of ear problems, including frequent infections, tympanostomy tubes, or a perforated eardrum, it is best to see a doctor as soon as possible rather than trying to remove the bug at home.
When attempting to remove a bug from the ear at home, it is vital not to stick anything inside the ear, such as a probing object or a cotton swab.
Sticking something into the ear can push the insect further inside, which can lead to long-lasting damage.
A study has shown that various complications are more likely to occur when an untrained person tries to remove something from their ear.
Potential complications include cuts and bruising to the external ear canal, as well as ruptured eardrums.
When to see a doctor
A doctor can remove a bug from the ear safely.
When it is not possible to remove a bug from the ear at home, it is essential to see a doctor as soon as possible to prevent complications.
A bug left in the ear may continue to sting or scratch, which could cause inflammation or a ruptured eardrum. Infection is also a risk.
The doctor will look inside the ear with an instrument called an otoscope.
If the bug is alive, they will usually kill it using mineral or olive oil before flushing it out of the ear with sterile water.
If it is difficult to flush out, they may try to grab it with a pair of tiny forceps.
A person will rarely require anything more than local anesthesia to keep them still and calm while the doctor removes the bug.
In one study that looked specifically at people with a foreign object in the ear, only 13.6 percent required general anesthesia for the removal procedure.
In 86.4 percent of cases, the doctor removed the foreign body using forceps, suction, a probe, a fine hook, or an ear syringe, with or without local anesthesia.
Pain and other symptoms usually subside quickly following the removal of the bug. If any stings or scratches result in inflammation, it can take a few days for the swelling to resolve.
In some cases, antibiotic medication might be necessary to prevent an infection.
There is no way to ensure that a bug never crawls into the ear, but people can take a few steps to reduce the risk. These include:
- wearing insect repellent when spending time in the countryside
- wearing earplugs when camping
- keeping the home clean to reduce the likelihood of having insects indoors
If a bug does get into the ear, it is often possible to remove it using simple home remedies. If these do not work, it is essential to see a doctor as soon as possible.