Sunday, 21 April, 2024
HomeCase ReportSpider found inside Chinese patient’s ear

Spider found inside Chinese patient’s ear

A small spider was extracted from the ear of a woman in Taiwan recently, along with its discarded exoskeleton in a rare, but not unheard of, case.

The patient (64) had heard what she said were clicking and rustling sounds in her left ear for days, after what initially started with a “strange sensation” – the feeling of movement within her ear, followed by the incessant rustling sounds.

After struggling to sleep for several nights she visited an ear, nose and throat clinic, where doctors discovered a small spider moving around in her ear canal, reports NBC. It had discarded its exoskeleton, which sat nearby.

They used a tube to suction out both, according to the case report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“She didn’t feel pain because the spider was very small, only 2mm to 3mm,” said Dr Tengchin Wang, the report’s co-author and the director of the otolaryngology department at Tainan Municipal Hospital.

Wang said he had seen ants, moths, cockroaches and mosquitoes inside people’s ears before, but never an insect that had moulted inside an ear canal.

US doctors said discovering an insect inside a person’s ear was rare but not unheard of.

Most ear, nose and throat specialists see “a number of bugs or some sort of arthropod” in ear canals throughout their career, said Dr David Kasle, a physician at ENT Sinus and Allergy of South Florida, who wasn’t involved in the case.

In 2020, doctors found a Japanese beetle inside the ear of a 14-year-old girl in Pennsylvania. She had been swimming in a pool, then detected a crawling sensation in her right ear.

The year before, a nine-year-old boy in Connecticut reported buzzing noises in his right ear, which prompted Kasle and a colleague to discover a tick lodged in his eardrum.

Dr Stacey Ishman, an otolaryngology instructor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said she has treated about eight patients with insects in their ears over her 23-year career – often people who did outdoor activities like camping.

“Most of the time the ear is completely fine,” she said. “If there’s some injury to the ear canal, quite honestly it’s more often from people trying to get it out than it is from the bug itself.”

People who suspect a bug may be inside their ear shouldn’t stick their finger inside because the insect could sting them, say experts. Nor should they use tweezers or a paperclip, as these can damage the eardrum or cause bleeding or infection.

Ishman further cautioned against putting earbuds in the ear, which can lodge the insect in further.

A safe option, according to doctors, is to pour vegetable oil, olive oil or baby oil into the ear to drown the bug or help it slide out.

In his report, Wang recommended using lidocaine or ethanol to kill larger insects, thereby stopping them from moving and damaging the ear. That step should be avoided, however, if the eardrum has a hole in it, which may be hard for people to determine on their own.

Even those who’ve removed an insect from their ear should see a doctor, Ishman said, because parts of the bug – like an antenna – could be left behind.


New England Journal of Medicine article – A Spider and Its Exoskeleton in the Ear Canal (Restricted access)


NBC News article – A spider was found inside a woman's ear. Such cases are rare, doctors say, but not unheard of (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Live worm found in Australian woman’s brain


Toddler’s nosebleeds and coughs caused by leech in throat



MedicalBrief — our free weekly e-newsletter

We'd appreciate as much information as possible, however only an email address is required.