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Many people are curious as to how often arthropods enter people’s ear canals while sleeping. Many myths about arthropods nesting within the human body have become well known over the years. For example, some people believe the earwigs literally crawl into ears where they may damage the brain, and the idea that spiders can establish egg sacs in bodily orifices or beneath human skin is the basis of many urban legends. Most people today dismiss these stories as fantastical old wives’ tales, but according to many doctors, it is not uncommon for people to visit the hospital after an arthropod becomes lodged in an ear canal.

A few years ago, an American woman in her 20s had been experiencing pain as well as curious movements in her ear canal. After sticking a Q-tip into her ear she found what looked like insect legs on the cotton. Naturally, the woman freaked out and visited her doctor who found a large palmetto bug lodged in her ear canal. The palmetto bugs is a type of large cockroach that measures around an inch and a half in body length. Surgery had to be performed to remove the insect, but she had to return to the hospital multiple times to have additional roach body parts flushed out of her ear. The woman’s ear nose and throat doctor stated that arthropods are removed from people’s ear canals at least once a month at the hospital where he works, and he had already removed one arthropod from a person’s ear canal the same day that he removed the roach from the woman’s ear.

According to Dr. Benjamin McGrew, four or five people a year visit his clinic due to arthropods lodged in ear canals, and most are roaches. Dr. McGrew also said that other insects, like flying bugs, spiders and moths, are also found in his patient’s ear canals on occasion. Spiders have built webs in ears, and roaches sometimes damage the eardrum. The risk of waking up with a bug in the ear canal is highest while camping and living within a home infested with cockroaches and/or flying insects.

Have you ever suspected that your ear canal had been invaded by an arthropod of some kind?