Can bugs really get in your ear?

What to do, symptoms and effects
Last update on Jun, 18, 2021
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Small insects can, in fact get lost in people's ears. The phenomenon is more common in countries where people sleep a lot on the floor. You rarely hear about it in Europe. Usually it is a question of small flies or beetles.

The fear of a bug in the ear

The fear of a bug in the ear is of course not completely unfounded: in the worst case, a small spider or other insect could crawl into your ear while you sleep. But this probability is extremely small. This is not only ensured by our European sleeping habits, but also by ear wax: the smell and the bitter substances in ear wax repel insects. The human ear protects itself naturally against intruders.

How rare insects are in the ear is also shown by the fact that the few spectacular cases from the USA or Asia are worth a newspaper report even in Europe: the story of a woman from California with a tick in her ear was covered in medical journals for ENT doctors worldwide. In India a man had a seven centimeter long cricket in his ear, a man in Australia had a cockroach and a Chinese woman had a jumping spider!

But if a fly, moth, ant or other insect has found its way into the ear, keep calm. If you can't gently remove it yourself, don't be afraid to see an ear, nose and throat doctor. Under no circumstances should you try to get into your ear with tweezers or anything similar. The risk of injury is too great.

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Symptoms of insects in your ear

As mentioned above, it is rare, but not impossible to have an insect in the ear. Symptoms are:

  • A tingling sensation and / or unexplained tickling;
  • rushing noises, such as water in the ear, or ringing in the ears, which can be mistaken for tinnitus;
  • A slight hearing loss with the impression that the ear is blocked;
  • A feeling of a foreign object in the ear.

If it is very quiet, you may not even notice an insect in your ear. If the insect remains in the ear for a long time, a symptom can also be an inflammation of the ear canal, which is triggered by a small animal or the fly in the ear.

Check other diseases and symptoms

Check other diseases and symptoms if you're unsure whether you have an insect in your ear 

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Frequently asked questions

How long can a bug live in your ear?

A bug that has entered your ear is very likely to die quickly. However, it doesn't always happen, and in some cases it can stay alive for a few days, causing discomfort and noise in your ear.

Can I remove an insect in the ear?

Yes, you can remove an insect in your ear yourself. To do this, three safe measures are recommended. But be careful! If these methods do not remove the insect from the ear, please consult an ENT specialist. The risk of injury to the eardrum is too great. Here are the "do-it-yourself" techniques:

  • Take a flashlight and go into a dark room. Shine on the outside of your ear. Many insects (e.g. flies, bugs, beetles and moths) use light sources for orientation, so they are literally attracted by the light and can find their way out of the ear.
  • If that doesn't work, you can rinse your ear. Tilt your head so that the affected ear is facing up. Let water run into the ear, then turn your head so that the water can run out again. The insect should then be flushed out.
  • If rinsing the ear with water did not help, you can try oil. Again, hold your head with the affected ear up and let cooking oil (e.g. olive oil) run into your ear. Remain in this position for a few minutes. The animal will be killed and then washed out with the oil if you hold your ear down.

What about earwings in your ear?

Until the Middle Ages, dried and pulverized earwigs were used to treat ear diseases. Under no circumstances are they dangerous.  Earwigs can't even pinch with their pincers. The pincers are only used to deter enemies and to unfold the rarely used, almost invisible wings. These animals are considered useful insects because they eat aphids and caterpillars.

What about another foreign object in the ear?

Other foreign bodies in the ear are more common than insects. For example, when working in the house and garden,  parts of plants get unnoticed in the ear or dust and sand. Foreign bodies in the ear canal are mainly noticeable through   hearing problems and the feeling of having something in the ear. Often, however, it is also a "home-made" problem.   Ear wax plugs are the most common cause.  You can try to remove these yourself with cooking oil.  
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