First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers
Home > Health Library > Objects in the Ear
Objects (foreign bodies) inserted into the ear usually do not cause significant damage. But objects that are inserted forcefully can damage the ear canal or penetrate the eardrum.
Problems with objects in the ear most commonly occur in children younger than age 5 and in people who have problems with thinking and reasoning, such as an intellectual disability or Alzheimer's disease.
Some objects in the ear cause more problems than others.
The longer an object is left in the ear, the harder it is to remove. Also, the longer an object stays in the ear, the higher the chances of infection. A visit to a doctor is needed if an object remains in the ear longer than 24 hours.
An urgent visit to a doctor is needed any time a disc battery is placed in the ear or if symptoms of injury develop after an object has been inserted in the ear. Symptoms of injury include sudden hearing loss, moderate to severe pain, dizziness, or bleeding.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Disc batteries are small, round batteries used in toys, cameras, watches, and other devices. Because of the chemicals they can release, they can cause serious problems if they are swallowed or get stuck in an ear or the nose. Small magnets used in household items and objects that contain a lot of lead (such as bullets, buckshot, fishing weights and sinkers, and some toys) also can cause problems if swallowed.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
If the battery is partially out of the ear, you may be able to remove it with your fingers or blunt-nosed tweezers.
If you can't remove the battery, call your doctor. If you are not able to reach your doctor immediately, go directly to the nearest hospital emergency department. Do not place eardrops or other solutions of any kind in the ear in an attempt to remove the battery. Eardrops can cause the battery to corrode quickly, causing severe damage to the ear canal.
Do not try to kill an insect that has flown or crawled inside the ear.
Do not use ear candles. They have no proven benefit in the removal of earwax or other objects in the ear and can cause serious injury.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Small children love to explore their surroundings. They are also curious about their bodies. To prevent children from inserting objects into their ears:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.