Although it might seem unlikely, insects and other living creatures invade human ears more often than we might suspect, often while people are asleep. When this nightmarish situation occurs, the first symptoms are usually intense itching and severe pain. Medical intervention is usually needed to remove the invaders.
Although these experiences are unnerving and unpleasant, they don’t, as a rule, cause long-term injuries. Still, the thought of something live burrowing into their ear canals has scared some folks enough to inspire them to wear earplugs while they sleep. The stories of these ten people show why wearing earplugs in bed might not be such a bad idea.
10 Hendrik Helmer
In 2014, Hendrik Helmer of Darwin, Australia, was awakened in the middle of the night by severe pain in his right ear, and he realized that an insect must have crawled inside it. Hoping the invader wasn’t a poisonous spider, he sought to remove it with a vacuum cleaner. When this approach failed, he tried to flush it with water, which excited the insect and caused more pain.
Helmer then woke his roommate, who drove him to Royal Darwin Hospital, where a doctor finally removed the 2-centimeter (0.8 in) cockroach from Helmer’s ear with a pair of forceps after killing it with oil. For several days after the cockroach’s removal, Helmer experienced difficulty with his balance and “twinges of pain when he moved his jaw.”
9 Radhika Mandloi
Radhika Mandloi, age four, complained of intense pain and an itch inside her ear and was taken to the hospital in 2016. There, Dr. Raj Kumar Mundra removed 80 maggots from her ear during two 90-minute operations. Had she sought treatment any later, Mundra said, the maggots might have started to consume her brain. (Not all maggots only consume dead tissue.)
Mundra attributed the problem to poor hygienic conditions. Attracted into her ear by “bad smells,” the fly deposited the larvae, thereby endangering her life.
8 Catherine McCann
Catherine McCann, age 92, was a resident at the Lutheran Home for the Aged in Arlington Heights, Illinois, when her ear became infested with maggots in 2012. As their elderly patient screamed, doctors at the Northwest Community Hospital videotaped their removal of 57 maggots. Experts who examined the larvae determined that they’d been in McCann’s ear for as many as three days. The nursing home was inspected for flies, but none were found, and it’s believed that a fly may have entered McCann’s ear during an outdoor walk.
McCann’s ear canal was enlarged following surgery a few years earlier, and she was being treated with flushings of her ear, ear drops, and antibiotics. Although the nursing home claimed that McCann received the treatments as directed, her attorney was skeptical. McCann’s husband, who paid $120,000 a year for his wife’s care, sued the facility for “emotional distress and negligence.”
7 Rochelle Harris
In 2013, Rochelle Harris “dislodged” a fly from her ear while visiting Peru and didn’t think of it again until she started experiencing headaches and pain on one side of her face and woke up one morning with liquid on her pillow. A consultant at the Royal Derby Hospital in Northern England found maggots in “a small hole in her ear canal.” A New World screwworm fly had laid eight larvae in her ear.
Harris was concerned that the larvae may have invaded her brain. When flushing her ear with olive oil failed to flush the maggots, Harris underwent surgery. Before their removal, she could “feel them and hear them” as they scratched and wriggled inside her ear.
6 Anonymous Woman
Pain sent a 48-year-old woman to a hospital in Taiwan. Upon removing her hearing aid, doctors detected “bloody fluid” in her ear. A fruit fly larva was ultimately removed from her ear canal.
The skin near the woman’s eardrum had been “eroded” by the infestation. She was treated with topical antibiotics, and two weeks later, her ear canal was healed.
5 Shreya Darji
In Deesa, Gujarat, India, ants have reportedly colonized 12-year-old Shreya Darji’s ear. On average, 10 to 15 ants emerge from her ear each day, requiring doctors to repeatedly remove the pests.
Flushing Darji’s ear with an antiseptic hasn’t worked, and doctors have been unable to locate a queen ant by using laparoscopic cameras. Darji is being monitored as doctors attempt to solve the mystery.
4 Michael Gorman
In 2014, both a tick and a moth became residents of Michael “Mickey” Gorman’s ear during a friend’s birthday party. A woman, using a pair of tweezers, extracted the pests from the Lee’s Summit, Missouri, man’s ear, while Jacob Stanfield videotaped the procedure and posted it on YouTube afterward.
The tick was removed quickly and without difficulty, but it took two minutes of repeated tries before the woman was able to remove the moth. Stanfield released the moth outdoors. It had entered Gorman’s ear when he tried “to swat it on the side of his head.”
3 Grant Botti
Grant Botti, age 14, of Arkansas, removed a 10-centimeter (4 in) centipede from his own ear in 2015. Pain had alerted him to the creature’s presence.
After being treated at a local hospital for “abrasions inside his ear” caused by the invader, Botti was released. The doctors said they’d never seen a case like his before.
2 Anonymous Man
Nocturnal insects, crickets seek refuge during daylight hours. Unfortunately for a man in India, one of the creatures hid inside his ear canal in 2014. Experiencing an itching sensation and pain, he went to the South Zone ENT Research Centre in Villupuram, Tamil Nadu, India.
There, doctors extracted the 5-centimeter (2 in) trespasser with a pair of tweezers—but not before the cricket resisted by crawling farther into the patient’s ear. Doctors said that the cricket couldn’t have stung the man, but it could have irritated his ear enough to cause temporary problems with balance and hearing.
In 2016, Victoria Price, of Porthcawl, Wales, experienced an earache following her daily swim. She thought water might have been trapped in her ear or that she might have a perforated eardrum.
When her husband examined her ear, he told her that he thought there was something alive inside. At the hospital, using a pair of forceps, triage nurse Sarah Gaze removed a large, “wriggly” spider from Price’s ear. Despite her experience, Price said she is not afraid of spiders.
Gary Pullman lives south of Area 51, which, according to his family and friends, explains “a lot.” His 2016 urban fantasy novel, A Whole World Full of Hurt, was published by The Wild Rose Press. An instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he writes several blogs, including Chillers and Thrillers: A Blog on the Theory and Practice of Writing Horror Fiction and Nightmare Novels and Other tales of Terror.