How to remove a wad of cotton stuck in my ear?
July 29, 2007 2:29 AM   Subscribe

Help! I was cleaning out my ears with a Q-Tip (cotton bud), and the cotton tip is now stuck in my ear!

While doing the routine ear-clean with a Q-Tip, I removed the Q-Tip from my ear and imagine my shockhorror when the cotton tip was missing!

The cotton tip is now stuck in my ear and I can't get it out! Any suggestions in removing it? Has this happened to anyone before?

(It doesn't exactly hurt or impair my hearing, but knowing that a bit of cotton is lodged in my ear is somewhat freaky.)
posted by Mrs PuGZ to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
This happened to a family member and she had to go and get it removed at A&E.

You don't want to try and get it out yourself, as you may end up pushing it in futher and although it may not hurt now, it will if it goes anywhere near your ear drum!
posted by spotty_dog at 2:34 AM on July 29, 2007

If you cannot see the q-tip without the use of an octoscope, you need to go see a doctor.

Trying to flush the cotton out could result in it going further into your ear canal (your ear canal is actually about 2" long). The ear drum is not protected by anything other than the cartilage surrounding it. The doctor has a special syringe that can be used to pull this out. Shouldn't take any longer than 5 minutes.

Generally, I would tell you not to go to a hospital and find a doctor that will take you, but because it is Saturday night, you may need to go into the ER.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 2:47 AM on July 29, 2007

Get thee to a doctor. Don't try to fix it yourself.
You could seriously damage your ear if you do something that doesn't work.
Better safe than sorry.
posted by jammnrose at 2:57 AM on July 29, 2007

Get to a doctor, and remember in future - the smallest thing you should stick in your left ear is your left elbow.
posted by cholly at 3:26 AM on July 29, 2007

Standard medical advice would be to see a doctor, but then standard medical advice is not to go poking around in your ears with q-tips. I am a doctor, and if this happened to me I wouldn't embark on a trip to my GP/ER without having someone check my ear first. If there's someone you trust (with good vision, and a steady hand), ask them to pull back gently on your pinna (the flappy bit of your ear), and peer with a bright light into your ear canal. If they can see the cotton bud, and it's relatively near (ie not on your ear drum) they may be able to remove it with tweezers. If they can't see the bud as they advance the tweezers into your ear, they should give up, and you should ask your doctor to do it. They MUST be able to remove it under direct vision for this to be worth risking.
posted by roofus at 3:54 AM on July 29, 2007

Disclaimer: Following this advice does carry a risk of perforating your ear drum. Additionally you might still need to have a doctor check with an otoscope to make sure you got the entire bud out. On balance, probably not worth it.
posted by roofus at 4:09 AM on July 29, 2007

My sister's friend went deaf because of this, he thought he had removed it all; but some remained, rotted and took his hearing with it. Get to A&E.
posted by trashcan at 5:31 AM on July 29, 2007

(A&E = Accident & Emergency = emergency room,for the non-Australians.)
posted by smackfu at 7:00 AM on July 29, 2007

I'd feel weird about going to an ER for this, but that's why they made Urgent Care centers. Go ahead and go to Urgent Care! Saying, "I was cleaning my ear and the Q-tip got stuck!" now is a lot less embarassing than saying, "Well, I was cleaning my ear, and the Q-tip got stuck, so I tried flushing it out, and when that didn't work my buddy tried to get it with a tweezers, but then someone jostled his arm and..." later on.
posted by christinetheslp at 7:08 AM on July 29, 2007

Many insurance companies have the same deductible for the Urgent Care that they do for a doctor's visit, whereas the ER copay is often substantially higher. (Mine is 10x.) This is why they invented Urgent Care, for stuff you don't want to let go, that is not life-threatening. It would probably be a good idea to get it out before you shower, as once it gets wet, it could grow germs or something, and then become more complicated.
IANAnENT, but you knew that.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 11:23 AM on July 29, 2007

For future reference, if you simply MUST clean out your ears, get an earwax removal kit at the drugstore, consisting of drops to soften the wax, and a bulb syringe to (gently) flush your ears with lukewarm tap water.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:11 PM on July 29, 2007

If I had to remove a stuck cotten ball from my ear canal and I didn't have access to a doctor, this is what I would do:
  1. Take a small wooden stick (like a tooth-pick), bite off any point, and then chew the end until it looks like a brush.
  2. Insert that bush gradually into the ear canal while twirling it. The end stiff fibers from the stick should catch the fibers from the cotton wad and get tangled up.
  3. Once you have gotten the cotton sufficiently tangled with your stick you can pull it out
Of course this procedure only works if you really have cotton stuck in your ear. If instead you have an ear infection then you might wind up punching out your ear drum.

My ear canals often itch. When they do I use a Q-tip and with gentle steps know how deeply I can insert one. I would know from learned sensation how to use a brushhy tooth pick to remove a cotton ball.

If you don't know your ears and their sensations then you should definitely see a doctor.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:37 PM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! I got really worried when trashcan said that I could lose my hearing because of this, so I started tilting my head on its side and shaking my head around and lo-and-behold! the darned piece of cotton fell out :D

Heehee, thanks for all your replies anyway! I'll probably never go near q-tips again :P
posted by Mrs PuGZ at 12:48 AM on July 30, 2007

hey Mrs PuGZ that was my intention becuse of what happened to someone I know.

Did you get it cheked out?
posted by trashcan at 4:47 AM on August 1, 2007

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