When Is Ear Pain an Emergency?

In a nutshell, ear emergencies are usually one of the following:

  • An object (or objects) in the ear canal
  • Ruptured eardrums
  • Severe infections
  • Sudden hearing loss

Things To Consider

Children often put items such as toy soldiers, French fries, or beads into their ears. These items can be hard to remove because the ear canal is a tube of solid bone, lined with skin that's as sensitive as it is thin. When an object presses against said skin, there's a lot of pain involved.

A health care provider usually ends up needing particular instruments for the ear to be examined thoroughly, getting the object out safely.

What Causes Ear Emergencies?

When there's ringing in the ear, pain, dizziness, and hearing loss, the causes could be a number of things, such as:

  • Inflammation of the middle or inner ear
  • Inserting objects into the ear (including but not limited to pins, toothpicks, swabs, pens and the such)
  • Loud sounds (such as that of a gun being fired)
  • Ruptured eardrum/s
  • Sudden changes in pressure (from an explosion, from being slapped, from a blow to the head, from scuba diving, from flying in an airplane and more)

What Are the Symptoms Of An Ear Emergency?

  • Vomiting
  • Visible object in the ear
  • Swelling
  • Sensations of an object in the ear
  • Redness
  • Noises in the ear
  • Nausea
  • Loss of hearing
  • Fever
  • Earache
  • Dizziness
  • Clear liquid coming from the ear (brain fluid)
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding from the ear

First Aid

This will depend on the kind of ear emergency in question.

1. If there is an insect in the ear...

Make sure there is no finger or tweezer that goes anywhere near the ear. The insect inside may sting as a defense mechanism, complicating things further.

  • Turn the person's head until the affected side is up. Wait for a moment in case the insect crawls or flies out.
  • Did the insect not go out on its own? Pour oil (baby, mineral, or olive) into the ear; the ear lobe should be pulled backward and upward as oil is poured. This should suffocate the insect and lead them to float out with the oil.

2. If there is an object in the ear...

Make sure the person is calm.

  • Does it seem like a small object is lodged inside? If it only seems so but there's nothing visible, reaching inside the ear canal must be avoided at all costs. Instead, consult a medical professional.
  • Is the object sticking out? If so, and if it seems easy to remove, take it out by hand or with the use of tweezers. Make use of gravity. This attempt at removing the object is done through tilting the head to the affected side. It should be noted that shaking the head must not be done at this point.

After first aid is applied, it's important to see a medical professional.


Ear emergencies can happen at any time; it's important to be prepared. These usually involve an object ending up in the ear or sudden hearing loss. Application of first aid is helpful, but it's always best to see a medical professional after.

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