Foreign body in the ear: When to see a doctor?

It is quite common for a foreign body (foreign object) to enter the ear. In most cases, a foreign body in the ear is not seriously affected . And you can wait until the next day to see a doctor. But in some situations, a foreign body in the ear can be very dangerous. It can cause severe damage to the ear.

In these cases, you need to immediately visit an Ear - Nose - Throat doctor for the most appropriate treatment. So what are those situations? And what will the doctor do to treat them? Let's find out in the article below.

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1. Overview of foreign bodies in the ear

  • A foreign body (foreign object) stuck in the ear is a fairly common condition. Especially in young children.
  • You can usually feel it right away if something is in your ear.
  • The majority of patients who fall into this category are usually not serious. However, in some of the situations listed below, you should see a doctor right away.
  • Common ear foreign bodies include: food, nuts, toys, or insects. Children often put foreign objects in their ears out of curiosity.

Foreign body (foreign object) stuck in the ear is a fairly common condition (Source: Internet)

2. When to see a doctor?

  • In most cases, a foreign body in the ear will not be life-threatening. You can consult your doctor for further advice. The danger of a foreign body in the ear is based on its location and material.
  • If the foreign body is not causing any symptoms, you can usually wait until the next day.
  • When home remedies don't work or you still feel a foreign object in your ear, you should see a doctor to have it removed.
  • You should also seek medical attention if you have pain, bleeding, or discharge from your ear after the foreign body has been removed. It may be due to a foreign body in the ear canal or an infected ear canal. This infection usually responds well to antibiotic ear drops. You need to see a doctor for a complete examination and prescription.
  • Foreign bodies in the ear can also damage the eardrum, and affect hearing. If you suspect that your eardrum is damaged or you have hearing loss. You should go to an otolaryngologist for an otoscopy to check.

In the following cases, you should see a doctor immediately:

  • Button batteries are commonly found in many small appliances and toys. It can break down in the body, causing chemicals to leak out and cause burns. So it should be taken out immediately.
  • Foreign bodies that are food or plant seeds (eg, beans) should also be treated urgently. Because these seeds can swell when exposed to a humid environment.
  • A foreign body in the ear causes great pain, discomfort, hearing loss, or dizziness.

Foreign body in the ear: When to see a doctor?

Button batteries are a very dangerous foreign object to the ear (Source: The sun)

3. What exams and tests will you have?

  • Most foreign bodies are visible with good lighting and otolaryngology instruments.
  • You will have a thorough examination of both ears, nose and throat. Because a person can have many foreign objects in many places. Especially in children.
  • Occasionally, a foreign body is discovered by accident on an X-ray for another reason. But remember, there are many types of foreign bodies that cannot be seen on an X-ray such as food, pieces of wood, or pieces of plastic.
  • In some cases, your doctor may use an endoscope to examine your ear. Otoscopy helps to better see the condition of the eardrum or evaluate internal infection.

Foreign body in the ear: When to see a doctor?

Ear foreign body removal tools (Source: Anesthesia Key)

4. How will the doctor remove the ear foreign body?

The removal of the foreign body will depend mainly on the location and type of the foreign body. Don't be surprised if your doctor uses a different technique to remove the foreign body. Since each doctor's experience is different, there can be innovative yet safe and effective techniques.

  • Commonly used techniques include: using a soft straw to suck out the foreign body, or using small pliers. Doctors may also use devices that have a noose or hook on the end.
  • If the object is metal, the doctor may use a tool with a magnet to help pull the object out of the ear.
  • Another popular method is ear irrigation. Use a small tube to pass the foreign body in and pump warm water in. The pumped water will swirl and push the foreign body out. This method should not be used when the eardrum has perforated or is suspected.
  • Children are often very fussy and won't stay still when performing these techniques. Crying will make the technique difficult to succeed and increase the risk of complications. If necessary, sedation may be used to help calm and relax the child.

Foreign body in the ear: When to see a doctor?

Using a suction tube for foreign bodies (Source: Garvit ENT Hospital)

5. Follow up after the foreign body has been removed

It is recommended that a follow-up visit is made after the foreign body has been removed from the ear. If you have no symptoms, you can return to any general clinic within a week. If you have any of the following symptoms: purulent ear discharge, ear bleeding, discomfort, etc., you should quickly see an otolaryngologist.

6. How to prevent foreign body?

Curiosity and body exploration is a normal stage of child development. If you teach a child that putting anything in the ear is not good, this risk can be prevented.

When you suspect a child has put something in the ear, it's important to approach these situations calmly. You shouldn't be angry. Only then will the children dare to tell the truth. And new foreign bodies may be detected. Thereby removing the foreign object safely. Avoid complications.

Foreign bodies are insects that often get into the ear when they sleep. Especially when sleeping on the floor or sleeping outside. In these cases, it is necessary to protect the ears with earplugs, cotton balls inserted overnight. Or need to sleep under the net.

Foreign body in the ear: When to see a doctor?

You should talk softly to your child when you suspect that he or she has put a foreign object in his ear (Source: Today's parent)

7. What effects can foreign bodies in the ear cause later?

  • Most people make a full recovery after the foreign body is removed from the ear.
  • If the skin of the ear canal is damaged, antibiotic ear drops may be prescribed to prevent infection. Most infections caused by foreign bodies are mild. Severe and widespread infections can take a toll on your health.
  • Foreign bodies can damage the eardrum and deeper structures inside the ear. These lesions can affect hearing (the patient's ability to hear). These lesions can often be treated by an otolaryngologist. You should consult your doctor for the most appropriate treatment.

Foreign bodies in the ear usually do not cause serious health effects. You can calmly wait to be seen by a doctor. But in some cases, such as the foreign body being a chemical battery, or when there are complications of the foreign body, you need to go to the doctor immediately for the earliest treatment.

Foreign bodies in the ear are rarely serious. However, you should still check again after the foreign body has been removed. To detect complications and treat promptly.

 Doctor Su Ngoc Kieu Chinh


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