What is the prevalence of ear foreign body removal?

Updated: May 08, 2018
  • Author: Angela On-Kee Kwong, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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The removal of foreign bodies from the ear is a common procedure in the emergency department. [1] Children older than 9 months often present with foreign bodies in the ear; at this age, the pincer grasp is fully developed, which enables children to maneuver tiny objects.

See Foreign Bodies: Curious Findings, a Critical Images slideshow, to help identify various foreign objects and determine appropriate interventions and treatment options.

In adults, insects (eg, cockroaches, moths, flies, household ants) are the foreign bodies most commonly found in the ear. Rarely, other objects have been reported (eg, teeth, hardened concrete sediments, illicit drugs, plant material). [2] , [3] , [4] Some persons from Mexico and Central America reportedly insert leaves and other plant material into their ears as a form of native remedy. [5] Also, some adults with psychiatric disorders present to the emergency department with foreign bodies lodged in their ears as a form of self-mutilation called ear stuffing. [6]

In children, the range of foreign bodies is extensive. Food particles (eg, candy, vegetable matter, beans, chewing gum) and other organic material (eg, leaves, flowers, cotton pieces) are commonly encountered. [7] Inorganic objects such as small toys, beads, pencil erasers, and rocks are also common.

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