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Ear emergencies include objects in the ear canal and ruptured eardrums.
Children often put objects into their ears. These objects can be hard to remove. The ear canal is a tube of solid bone that is lined with thin, sensitive skin. Any object pressing against the skin can be very painful. In many cases, a health care provider will need to use special instruments to examine the ear and safely remove the object.
Pain, hearing loss, dizziness, ringing in the ear, and ruptured eardrums can be caused by:
Depending on the type of ear emergency, follow the steps below.
OBJECT IN THE EAR
Calm and reassure the person.
INSECT IN THE EAR
DO NOT let the person put a finger in the ear. This may make the insect sting.
The person will have severe pain.
CUTS ON THE OUTER EAR
Apply direct pressure until the bleeding stops.
DRAINAGE FROM INSIDE THE EAR
Cover the outside of the ear with a sterile dressing shaped to the contour of the ear, and tape it loosely in place.
If someone has an ear emergency, remember the following:
Some symptoms may mean you have had serious injury to your ear. See a provider if you have:
Follow these steps to prevent ear emergencies:
If you tend to feel pain and pressure in your ears when flying:
Byyny RL, Shockley LW. Scuba diving and dysbarism. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 143.
Thomas SH, Goodloe JM. Foreign bodies. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 60.
Review Date: 5/14/2016
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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