Although it is not very common, a bug can enter the ear and even stay there for some time. There are ways to remove a bug from the ear. However, it may require medical attention.

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.

This article explores how someone can tell if there is a bug in their ear, how to remove it safely, and precautions to take. It also discusses when to see a doctor and how to prevent bugs from entering the ear.

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In some instances, a person may not notice the bug entering the ear and may only experience symptoms later on. Older research from 2015 suggests that the most common symptoms of a bug in the ear include pain or pressure in the ear.

The external ear and the outer side of the eardrum have several nerves that relay information to the brain. A foreign object, such as a bug, may irritate these nerves.

According to Stanford Medicine, 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:

A person should contact a doctor if they experience any of the additional symptoms above, as they may indicate an ear infection.

A person should remain calm when trying to remove a bug, whether from someone else’s ear or their own.

Although having a bug in the ear is unsettling, becoming anxious may make the situation more difficult.

Stanford Medicine recommends following these steps to remove a bug from the ear:

  • If removing a bug from someone else’s ear, comfort them and ask them to remain calm while removing the bug.
  • Tilt the head to the affected side and gently shake it to dislodge the bug. Do not hit the 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 putting tweezers, cotton-tipped swabs, or other objects into the ear. These objects can push the bug further towards the eardrum, potentially leading to injuries and hearing loss.

If the bug is in the ear of a person 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.

Stanford Medicine notes that when attempting to remove a bug from the ear at home, a person put anything inside the ear, such as a probing object or a cotton swab.

Poking something into the ear can push the insect further inside, which may lead to long-lasting damage.

An older 2011 study suggested 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.

If a person cannot remove a bug from the ear at home, they should see a doctor as soon as possible to prevent complications. Stanford Medicine also notes that a person should contact a doctor if they can only remove pieces of the bug.

Older research from 2015 suggested that if a person cannot remove a bug from a child’s ear after one or two attempts, they should seek professional medical advice.

A bug left in the ear may continue to sting or scratch, which could cause inflammation or a ruptured eardrum. It may also lead to infection.

A doctor may look inside the ear using an otoscope, which is a medical instrument that allows healthcare professionals to examine the ear canal and eardrum.

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 or other medical instruments.

A person will rarely require anything more than local anesthesia to keep them still and calm while the doctor removes the bug. In a 2018 study that looked specifically at people with a foreign object in the ear, only 13.6% required general anesthesia for the removal procedure.

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 bugs indoors

If a bug has entered a person’s ear, they may be able to remove it at home. For example, by tilting their head to the affected side and gently shaking it to dislodge the bug.

A person should not put any objects in their ear when attempting to remove the bug at home.

In some cases, such as if a person has a history of ear problems, people should contact a healthcare professional who can remove the bug.