Children's ENT Ear & Balance

“Doc, my son has a piece of paper in his ear!”

February 11, 2020

Just a few days ago, Dr Gan Eng Cern saw a 5 year old boy with a piece of paper stuck in his ear. It is not uncommon for children who are exploring at this stage in their life, to insert foreign objects in their ears or nose. Some children may even swallow them! A study in the United States showed that children aged 2-8 years old are most vulnerable to inserting foreign objects into their ears. Hence, it is important that children in these age group are kept away from small objects or are supervised when they are exposed to small objects.


According to Dr Gan, symptoms from a foreign body stuck in the ear canal include hearing loss, ear pain and ear discharge. Fortunately for this boy, he was able to inform his parent of the incident and the foreign object was a piece of paper.  His mother immediately brought him to see Dr Gan. It was easily removed with a forceps under microscope guidance in the clinic. The procedure took just under 5 seconds for a trained ENT Specialist. However, some foreign objects may not be as innocuous. Dangerous foreign bodies in the ear include insects (which may struggle and cause injury to the ear canal – hence best to drown the insect with olive or mineral oil first) and button battery (which can release harmful chemicals or cause electrical burns in the ear). Such foreign bodies in the ear are considered a medical emergency and it is best that the child consult an ENT Specialist or an Emergency Department doctor as soon as possible to have it removed. If the foreign body is a soft object, organic material or seed, do not try to flush out them with water as they may swell up and block the entire canal and cause ear pain and infection.

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