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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Treatment

Do not try to remove any object yourself unless you can see it clearly from the outside. Small objects sometimes can fall out of the ear canal with the help of gravity if the ear is turned toward the ground. A child may be encouraged to gently shake his or her own head while holding his or her head so the ear faces down. Never shake a child in an effort to dislodge an object from the ear.

You can try to pull out cotton or paper using tweezers or your fingers, but a doctor, who has all the necessary tools, should remove most objects. This is because many injuries from objects in the ear canal happen when a person tries to remove an object without a doctor's help. Sometimes, the doctor can flush out the object with water or use a special hook, if needed. The doctor also can check with a lighted instrument called an otoscope once the object has been removed to be sure everything looks normal again.

If there is an insect in the ear canal, never push your finger into the ear because the insect may sting or bite. Turn the head so the affected ear faces up. The insect may crawl out on its own but if it doesn't, place a few drops of mineral oil into the ear. This will suffocate the insect. Your doctor then can remove the insect by flushing out the ear canal with clean water.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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