Trick of the Trade: Ear foreign body

May 22, 12
Trick of the Trade: Ear foreign body

Sometimes classic techniques need to be revisited, especially when I get new photos from the collective readership. Let’s review a painless way to remove beads from the ear canal. You can’t exactly have the patient’s provider blow in the other ear to expulse the bead, similar to a nasal foreign body…

Trick of the Trade (revised): Ear Foreign Body

Remove non-organic foreign bodies from the ear using a tissue adhesive

Back in 2010, I discussed how a few drops of a tissue adhesive on the end of wooden Q-tip stick can be used to attach to the foreign body. After waiting 20-30 seconds to let the glue dry, gently pull out the foreign body.

CAUTION (added 9/12/13): Do not apply too much tissue adhesive glue because it may drip into the canal and inadvertently stick the bead to the ear canal.

Dr. Edward Lew (PGY-2 EM resident from Cook County) recently shared with me his success story in a bead extraction. Instead of a Q-tip stick, he used a plastic ear pick with the tip cut off to provide a flat surface for the tissue adhesive. Nice job!



  1. McLaughlin R, Ullah R, Heylings D. Comparative prospective study of foreign body removal from external auditory canals of cadavers with right angle hook or cyanoacrylate glue. Emerg Med J. 2002 Jan;19(1):43-5. PubMed PMID: 11777871
  2. Pride H, Schwab R. A new technique for removing foreign bodies of the external auditory canal. Pediatr Emerg Care. 1989 Jun;5(2):135-6. PubMed PMID: 2748407
  3. Thompson MP. Removing objects from the external auditory canal. N Engl J Med. 1984 Dec 20;311(25):1635. PubMed PMID: 6504100

Author information

Michelle Lin, MD

ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco

The post Trick of the Trade: Ear foreign body appeared first on ALiEM.

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