Ear emergencies include objects in the ear canal and ruptured eardrums.
Children often stick objects into their ears. These objects can be difficult to remove because 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 doctor 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:
Follow the steps below, depending on the type of ear emergency.
OBJECT IN THE EAR
INSECT IN THE EAR
The person will have severe pain. Place sterile cotton gently in the outer ear canal to keep the inside of the ear clean.
CUTS ON THE OUTER EAR
DRAINAGE FROM INSIDE THE EAR
The following symptoms, which may indicate significant trauma to the ear, should be evaluated by a physician:
If you tend to feel pain and pressure when flying, drink a lot of fluid before and during the flight. Avoid the use of alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco on the day of the flight. Chew gum, suck on hard candy, or yawn during take-off and landing. Talk to your doctor about taking a decongestant or using a nasal spray before you fly.
Thomas SH, White BA. Foreign bodies. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 57.
Byyny RL, Shockley LW. Scuba diving and dysbarism. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 141.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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