Urban legends are designed to put irrational fears inside our heads, and during the month of October, with Halloween just around the corner, everyone is a little more on-edge compared to normal. Whether or not you believe some of the horror stories about the human body, weird medical news happens everyday–and some of it really could be right out of a movie.
Take, for example, a recent report from India, where a man went to the doctors after suffering from an ear ache. To his surprise–and the surprise of the doctors treating him–the ear ache was caused by a cricket living in his ear canal.
These critters are known to be an invasive species, appearing all over the globe. They like warm countries and hide during the day. It is likely this cricket crawled into the mans ear while he was sleeping and was just hiding there until the night came around, ” Michael Sweet, a university lecturer and invertebrate expert, told the Daily Star.
The cricket hasn’t done ant damage to the man’s ear at the time it was removed, but the cannot be said for all critters that have been found inside people’s ear canals. A 2006 study in the South African Medical Journal looked at what sorts of bugs most commonly crawl into people’s ears. Some 24 bug specimens were retained from people’s ears in the research, and the team found that 10 of them were cockroaches and three were beetles while the rest were miscellaneous insects.
“The insects are probably entering the canal as harborage, for heat, and/or for moisture,” Philip Koehler, Ph.D., an entomology professor at the University of Florida, told the Huffington Post.
And insects crawling into ears is not just something that happens in developing countries. Every year there are cases of insects inside ear canals in the United States, and the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital indicates this happens most frequently to children who often play outdoors. Treatment generally involves suffocating the insect by putting mineral oil in the ear at home and then traveling to a hospital to have the invader removed.
If insects are not promptly removed from an ear canal, they can work their way into the back portion of the ear, damaging the ear drum or burrowing through other tissues.
“They tend to run toward small dark places, which fits the description of the ear,” Dr. Richard Nelson, an emergency medicine physician at Ohio State University told Live Science. “Some people just really get freaked out if you tell them theyve got something live in their ear,” which makes it difficult to remove, Nelson said.
Nelson indicates the most common insects seen in this scenario are cockroaches, which crawl into the ear at night. While they don’t usually attempt to go past the ear drum, if one dies inside the ear it can cause an infection.