Ear & Balance

A live insect in the ear!

February 1, 2020

Ms A, a 15 year old lady, presented to my clinic looking distressed. She woke up in the morning with a feeling of “something moving” in her right ear. She tried digging her ear with an ear pick but that caused pain and more discomfort. She visited a GP who had a look in her ear and told her the unfortunate news that she has a live insect in her right ear canal. Without the appropriate instruments, her GP only managed to remove a small part of the insect.

When I saw her, a live insect can be seen moving in her right ear canal. There was some excoriation on the front part of her ear canal, possibly from the struggling insect or from her ear digging. The insect was removed in its entirety with an ear forceps under endoscopic guidance.



A live insect was seen in Ms A’s right ear canal on endoscopy





While it may be surprising to many, insects crawling or flying into the ear does happen. It occurs usually while the person is sleeping or when the person is engaged in an outdoor activity (e.g. during camping).


The first thing that you should do if you suspect that you have an insect in your ear is to drown the insect with baby oil, mineral oil or olive oil. Having a live insect struggling to get out of your ear canal is painful and highly uncomfortable! Never attempt to dig the insect out with a cotton bud or ear pick as this may push the insect deeper, agitate the insect and cause it to try to burrow its way out of your ear canal or injure your ear canal or eardrum.


Once you’ve drowned the insect, you should head to an ENT clinic or a GP with the right instruments and skill to remove the insect safely. There is no sure way of preventing an insect from going into your ears. Most of the time it is just bad luck. However, keeping your home clean and using an insect repellant when outdoors or camping may help!


Best wishes,


Dr Gan Eng Cern


ENT Specialist Singapore

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