A woman in Taiwan spent four days listening to endless sounds of rustling and clicking in her ear. When she finally went to a doctor, they made a shocking discovery.
When doctors at the ear, nose and throat clinic examined the 64-year-old, they discovered a small spider crawling around her left ear canal. They also found its discarded exoskeleton.
An article about the patient’s condition was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Doctors were eventually able to remove the spider and the skeleton by sucking it out using a cannula.
"She didn’t feel pain because the spider was very small. It’s just about 2 to 3 millimeters," said DrTengchin Wang, who co-authored a report on the incident and the director of the otolaryngology department at Tainan Municipal Hospital, according to NBC.
In some cases, insects can perforate the eardrum, according to Mr Wang.
“In my case, the animal was very small, so it didn’t damage the eardrum in my patient,” he said to Euronews.
Mr Wang said that the novelty of the case is what prompted him to write the report for the New England Journal of Medicine; although he’d seen all sorts of insects stuck in people’s ears, he had never seen a shedding spider.
Before this, he’d seen ants, moths, cockroaches and mosquitoes in people’s ears.
A woman with hypertension presented to the clinic with a 4-day history of abnormal sounds in her ear. On examination, a small spider was seen moving within the external auditory canal of the left ear. The molted exoskeleton of the spider was also present. https://t.co/dye2sbbiL9 pic.twitter.com/SfeNBBGQS8
— NEJM (@NEJM) October 25, 2023
He also added that people must see a doctor if they experience similar symptoms.
While it is not unheard of, it is rare for insects to find their way into people’s ears, usually happening to people who partake in outdoor activities like camping, Dr Stacey Ishman, an otolaryngology instructor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told NBC.
“Most of the time the ear is completely fine,” said Ms Ishman, who was not involved in the report, but notes that she has only treated around eight people with insects in their ear within her 23-year career.
“If there’s some injury to the ear canal, quite honestly it’s more often from people trying to get it out than it is from the bug itself.”
Insects make up about 14-18 per cent of all foreign objects discovered in ears, according to a report by the National Library of Medicine.