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How to Safely Remove a Bug from Your Ear: Advice from an Audiologist

September 22, 2023
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Written by
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Amy Sarow is a practicing clinical audiologist and serves as Audiology Lead for Soundly. Her expertise and experience span topics including tinnitus, cochlear implants, hearing aid technology, and hearing testing. She holds a doctoral degree in audiology from the University of Iowa. During her residency at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Sarow was inspired by the three-tiered, patient-centered approach, incorporating clinical work, teaching and research.

Soundly Staff
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As an audiologist who has worked closely with patients suffering from ear-related symptoms, I have treated my fair share of people who have had bugs in their ears.

Yes, you read that right - at times, bugs, small insects, and the like can find their way into your ear canal and cause immeasurable discomfort. You might even remember when one contestant, Jessica, in Survivor season 32 experienced this. Not only do bugs in the ear cause discomfort, but they can also induce unease or anxiety in patients.

Knowing the symptoms and understanding what to do can alleviate much of the discomfort associated with these incidents.


  • Scratching
  • Ear discomfort
  • Feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Buzzing or tapping sound
  • Sensation of crawling in the ear canal

Symptoms of a bug in the ear can vary, but the most common include a crawling or fluttering sensation in the ear canal or a feeling of something being stuck inside the ear. Especially if the bug crawls onto the eardrum, it can cause audible sensations and even pressure or discomfort.

Having a bug or insect in the ear can be an uncomfortable and alarming experience, but fortunately, such an occurrence will rarely cause any damage to the ear. The properties of earwax serve as a natural repellant for uninvited guests, including bugs. Luckily, you can also try methods at home to achieve relief. 

Home remedies

Home Remedies

So, what can you do if you feel a bug in your ear? Whatever you do, do not try to remove the bug or insect yourself with cotton swabs, Q-tips, or any other tool. Doing so could push the bug further into your ear canal and cause even more discomfort.

Additionally, movement may catch you off guard and prompt injury to the eardrum. Instead, you can try some of these easy remedies to flush the bug out. These techniques are gentle and also helpful in removing wax or other debris from the ear. 

1. Let gravity help.

Place a washcloth or towel on a pillow. Lying on the affected ear side, rest your ear on the towel. Staying in this position for several minutes allows gravity to pull the bug out.

2. Use mineral oil.

Place a few drops of mineral oil in the ear with an eye dropper. Lie down on the unaffected side (affected ear toward the ceiling) and stay in this position for five minutes. The mineral oil will have a chance to reach the end of the ear canal. Next, lie on the affected ear, placing a towel or washcloth underneath the ear. Stay in this position for ten minutes or more to allow the liquid to drain. 

3. Flush the ear with water.

Use a bulb syringe and a basin of water. To ensure comfort, the water temperature should be body temperature. (Cooler or warmer water than body temperature can cause temporary vertigo.) Sitting upright, flush the ear with the bulb syringe. Use a basin to catch the runoff. 

If none of these methods are successful, seek a medical professional. An ENT or other healthcare provider has more sophisticated tools to assist. In some cases, earwax may be blocking a clear path for evacuation of the bug.

While the above symptoms are suggestive of an insect in the ear, some of these symptoms may have other causes, for example, trigeminal neuralgia or middle ear muscle spasm. An ear specialist can help diagnose these conditions and recommend the best course of action.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have any of these:

  • Known ear infection 
  • Perforated eardrum 
  • PE tube in the ear 

or experience any of the following symptoms, do not try these home remedies and instead see a doctor immediately:

  • Sharp pain
  • Bleeding or drainage from the ear
  • Sudden change in hearing
  • Dizziness

Any of these signs or conditions will require medical attention and are best left to a trained professional. Additionally, you may consider seeing a healthcare provider immediately if you suspect your child has a bug in the ear.

Depending on the child's age, sitting still or attempting these home remedies may be challenging. An ENT's microscope and specialized tools can help address the situation swiftly and prevent discomfort.

How can I prevent bugs from getting in my ear?

Prevention is always better when possible, but in the case of bugs in the ear, it can't always entirely be prevented. However, if you engage in outdoor activities, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of it occurring. For example, using bug repellant can deter insects from approaching. If you're camping or sleeping outdoors, consider using earplugs to prevent insects from coming near the ear canal. 

As an audiologist, I understand how much a small bug can disrupt your day and how much relief it is to remove these foreign invaders. While a bug in the ear can be an unpleasant experience, it is vital to remember that it is usually a harmless occurrence.

The ear canal generally does an excellent job of keeping out the bad guys and preventing infection. However, the sensation can make patients anxious, and seeking professional help is critical. 

Final Thoughts

As an audiologist, I've seen a variety of ear conditions, including an insect in the ear. While the experience can be off-putting, in most cases, it won't cause damage to the ear. The good news is that it doesn't have to put a damper on your day, and some easy home remedies can usually help.

However, I recommend seeking prompt medical assistance if you experience more serious symptoms, such as pain, hearing loss, or drainage from the ear. It's also essential to avoid putting foreign objects into your ear canal, which can make things worse. Remember, a bug in the ear may cause discomfort, but it is usually harmless and easily treatable.

So, listen closely to your body and trust your instincts when it comes to seeking medical attention in the case of an ear-related emergency.

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