Woman Hearing Strange Sounds Finds Out She Has a Spider in Her Ear

Woman Hearing Strange Sounds Finds Out She Has a Spider in Her Ear

Here’s a terrifying medical tale, just in time for Halloween. In a new case report, doctors detail finding a spider inside a woman’s ear. The arachnid had likely made itself comfortable for at least four days, even managing to molt once. Thankfully, it was removed without any issues, though not before the doctors took a snapshot of the invading bug.

The case report was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The patient, a 64-year woman, visited an otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat) clinic in Taiwan after she began to hear strange sounds in her left ear for four days straight. These sounds—described as “incessant beating, clicking, and rustling”—had made it impossible for her to get a good night’s sleep. She also recalled waking up to the “feeling of a creature moving inside her left ear” on the first day that symptoms began. And sure enough, when the doctors looked for themselves, they quickly spotted a small spider just going about its business inside the ear canal.

Unfortunately for humankind, insects and arachnids finding their way into our ears isn’t unheard of. There doesn’t seem to be concrete data on how often ear-crawling happens, but it’s a common enough situation for doctors to encounter. In 2018, for instance, ENT doctor Benjamin McGrew told SELF that his clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham sees about four to five such cases a year.

What made this particular case really interesting, according to study author Tengchin Wang, wasn’t just the arachnid, but what it had left behind.

“We haven’t seen a [spider] with its molted exoskeleton in the ear at the same time,” Wang told Gizmodo over email.

Horrifying as they are, ear bugs usually aren’t a serious medical concern, though they should be removed as quickly as possible to avoid the risk of damage to the ear or infection. In this case, the doctors used a suction cannula through an otoscope to remove the spider and its molt, and the woman “went home happily” with no problems, Wang said.

If you’re ever unlucky enough to deal with your own ear-crawler, the most important thing to keep in mind is to not panic—tough as it might be to do. Sticking anything else inside in an attempt to flush out the bug, such as a cotton swab, is absolutely not advised, since it might only push the creature deeper inside, where it could then puncture the eardrum. Oil is sometimes used to suffocate the bug if it’s still alive before trying to shake it out, but this isn’t recommended if you suspect eardrum damage. And in all honesty, you should probably just see a doctor as soon as you can, if only to ensure that your ear will be undamaged and free of any remaining debris.

“It is best if an otolaryngologist can be found to assist,” Wang said. “If not, please don’t pick the ear by yourself.”

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