There are few things worse than having an insect or arachnid nesting within a person’s ear canal. While incidents like this are rare, they certainly occur frequently enough all over the world, as there actually exists a name for this condition. “Otoacariasis” is an infestation of the ear canal, and people living in rural areas are more likely than city-dwellers to fall victim to this unfortunate condition. Unsurprisingly, this condition is far more common in animals, such as pets, livestock and horses, than it is in humans. The most common types of arthropods that cause otoacariasis include ticks, mites, honey bees and cockroaches. Treating this condition is not usually difficult despite persistent efforts made by bugs to stubbornly maintain their presence in ear canals. Although relatively large in size, roaches have proven difficult to remove from the ears, and this may be due to their taste for earwax. Mites can be difficult to remove given their exceedingly small size, which allows them to travel into the deepest recesses of the human ear canal. Ticks are the most difficult arthropods to remove from human ear canals, as ticks become embedded within skin, making it difficult to extract the pests. Generally, medical professionals kill the arthropod invaders before removing them from an ear canal, but this is not necessarily an easy task.

Several studies have been published that detail the difficulty of killing and removing ticks from people’s ear canals, as not only do ticks become embedded in skin, but they are resistant to most insecticide solutions that doctors inject into ear canals. Tick-otoacariasis cases have caused victims to develop lasting vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss and even facial nerve damage, and in some cases, the tick imposter can only be removed surgically. It is also important for doctors to remove intact ticks from people’s ear canals, as severing their bodies or squishing the pests can contaminate the victim’s ear with dangerous pathogens which can easily enter the open wound created by a tick bite. When ticks do invade ears, they sometimes perforate the tympanic membrane, resulting in lasting auditory symptoms. In an effort to better treat arthropod otoacariasis, medical researchers are developing new insecticidal solutions to kill the hardiest of arthropod invaders. Unfortunately, many of these new solutions may take days to kill the arthropod imposter.

Have you ever swallowed an insect or arachnid?