Foreign Bodies in the Ear


This is a common presentation in ENT emergency practice.

Children are usually involved as they insert various objects into their ears while playing: including beads, plastic toys, seeds, etc

Live insects may also crawl into the ear in adults/children

Clinical features

  • Symptoms are often absent
  • Little pain (sometimes)
  • Sensation of blockage may be reported by older children
  • Object usually seen with good light in the ear canal

Differential diagnoses

  • Impacted wax
  • Otitis externa


  • Otitis externa
  • Perforation of tympanic membrane from attempts at removal

Treatment objectives

  • Remove object expeditiously without damage to ear structures or causing undue pain to patient

Non-drug treatment

  • Removal by ear syringing
  • Removal with appropriate hook, or  alligator forceps
  • Examination and removal under anaesthesia if difficult in the clinic


  • Vigilant supervision of young children.

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