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A foreign body in the external auditory ear canal

Posted on October 7, 2014

In past years, our Clear Ears Nurses have removed the following foreign objects from the external auditory ear canal.:

– Bee

– Moth

– Hearing aid wax guards

– Cotton tips

The prompt removal of foreign bodies from the ear is indicated whenever a well-visualized foreign body is identified in the external auditory canal and an uncomplicated first attempt is anticipated.

Removal of foreign bodies is contraindicated when:

– There has been contact of a foreign body with the tympanic membrane

– There is incomplete visualization of the auditory canal

– If button batteries or hearing aid batteries are involved Source

If contraindications occur, emergent ENT consultation is always warranted.

Dr. Burton and Dr. Gadre published the following case study in 2009. It discusses the removal of a foreign body in the external auditory canal. Here is their story from the Heuser Hearing Institute otology clinic. 

A foreign body in the external auditory ear canal 

An elderly woman was referred to the otology clinic at the Heuser Hearing Institute after the wax guard in her hearing aid had fallen into the ear canal. She had made several unsuccessful attempts to remove it by positioning her head.

Examination revealed that a piece of plastic that fits snugly in the earpiece of the hearing aid had become wedged between the anterior external auditory canal wall and the tympanic membrane annulus. The skin of the external auditory canal was mildly erythematous. The foreign body was easily removed with a 3-Fr suction tip.

Various methods are available for foreign body extraction from the external auditory canal. They include curettes and wire loops of various types, microalligator forceps, and suctioning. Magnification is important, particularly for removing tiny objects and to avoid trauma. Care must be taken to keep patients at ease so that they don’t suddenly jerk and cause trauma to the ear canal or tympanic membrane. Compared with the cartilaginous portion of the external ear, the bony portion is exquisitely sensitive to touching with instruments. One way to keep a patient comfortable is to introduce a 4% lidocaine solution into the external canal and wait 10 to 15 minutes for the anesthetic to take effect. In our patient, the use of topical anesthesia was not necessary.

wax gaurd


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