Posted in Personal

A Bug in my Ear—Literally, not Figuratively!

I was half-dozing in my own bed after an early morning bathroom visit when an innocent roll from my side to my back caused all hell to break loose. My first thought as I felt a helicopter take off in my head was that it’s a nightmare and/or flashback from the traumatic helicopter ride after the accident and that it will stop when I wake up.

My second thought was damnit, I am awake! And the sounds and pain of the helicopter were only increasing.

There must be a bug in my ear. 

No, it can’t be.

A freaking bug!! 

This can NOT be happening.

The pain and disorientation of wings and legs moving madly in my left ear canal  consumed me. I was in so much pain, that I don’t even remember exactly what I did or said. I know I sat down, stood up, walked around and moved my head from one side to the other. I tried to lean to my left side and be still long enough to allow whatever beast was in my ear to crawl out.

Apparently it had other plans… because it only dug deeper.

At first, Jerry didn’t know what to do with me. But thankfully along with being a duct tape man, Jerry is also the king of peroxide and he had recently heard of a guy who got a bug in his ear while on a motorcycle and dumping peroxide in the ear had caused the bug to back out.

So within a minute or so, he was standing over me armed and ready. 

I lay back down in bed hardly able to keep still from the explosion happening in my head. Peroxide was dumped… some flowed down my neck and shoulder and some into my ear.

It fizzed and crackled like peroxide does and though I thought it would be impossible for the pain to increase, for a few hours seconds, the explosion intensified. Shoot me now!

Then it slowed down slightly and as I lay still for a second, Jerry dumped more in. Again there was an initial burst of torture, then things calmed down. I was grateful for the relief and I tried not to think about the fact that there was a bug dying in my ear. (shudder)

Jerry promptly said that we have to go to an ER. While I love the medical world, I’ve seen enough of it, so I suggested he use tweezers and try to remove it. He was concerned about damaging my ear. After examining my ear with a bright flashlight, the point was mute, the bug was so far in that he couldn’t even see it!

It was not even 6am yet, so the ER was our only choice. 

It’s sad how well I know how to dress and pack for hospital visits, all jewelry comes off, sports bra with no metal, comfortable sweatpants/shirt, a sweatshirt, phone cord and a book. I moved cautiously because while things had settled down in my ear and I only felt dull pain and pressure, my concern was what if the helicopter starts up again.

At the ER, we were seen right away and while insurance, signature and all that jazz was being done, the receptionist begins telling us about various ear and bug related issues she has seen on medical mystery shows. (Excuse me, did you miss the patient etiquete classes?!)

After being escorted to a room, we waited almost two hours for the doctor to come in. Other than the dull pressure, a sharp pain would occasionally radiate from my ear down the side of my neck, and I tried not to think about the dead bug in my ear. During this time, housekeeping came in to empty the trash and she too proceeded to share ear-related horror stories with us. (Yes, I will be putting a few suggestions on the survey form)

The demeanor of the calm and collected physician assistant put me more at ease when she came in. With her light, she could see a bug deep in my ear channel next to my tympanic membrane (the eardrum). After a few numbing ear drops, the surgical tweezers appeared. She couldn’t get it with them, so the next procedure involved water in a syringe to flush it out. When she explained that most people get dizzy, nauseous and many vomit, I knew I was in trouble.

Water against an eardrum is torture and should be outlawed along with water boarding.

Water in my ear was every bit as intense as the earlier bug torture had been, plus now I had added disconcerting and painful side affects! Even 5 minutes after she finished I was still dizzy and nauseous, but since I hadn’t eaten anything yet, no vomiting.

She added more numbing drops and gave me a 5-minute break because she came back to attempt again. Jerry was concerned that water was pushing the bug in farther and asked if she had a small vacuum she could use to suck it out instead. She didn’t, plus she said that irrigation was their standard procedure and only specialists use suction.

After three attempts of irrigation, she concluded that it wasn’t working and I had to see a specialist. The one they usually get patients into right away was short-staffed and double-booked all day, but they would see me first thing the following morning.

I burst into tears!
There was no way I was having a dead bug in my ear for over 24 hours.
Jerry calmed me down and we finished with the discharge.

After the walk to the car, my mind was clear enough to think of other options. And before we left the parking lot, I was on Google. I found ear specialists about 25 minutes away called Otolaryngology Physicians of Lancaster. Though I didn’t know what the name meant, it impressed me, plus their location was easy to get to. A phone call to them proved priceless. They had a cancellation in about 13 minutes which I convinced her to hold for me.

Poor Jerry hates speeding and passing aggressively, so I debated if we should switch drivers, because I could get us there at least 5 minutes faster. But I doubted if that was wise and with some ‘gentle’ encouragement from me, he set new records for himself.

Though we arrived 10 minutes past the appointment time I was soon filling out paperwork. Filling out my medical history on two short lines is always a joke, so I ignored most of it, because I wanted to finish fast and all I cared about at that moment was my damn ear.

Though I was still uncomfortable and concerned about what would happen, from the first moment I walked it, I liked the place. Everyone was friendly, knowledgeable and at the top of their game. After a short wait, I was called back by a nurse and Dr. Dorf arrived soon.

I was impressed by his kindness and concern and Jerry was impressed that the first thing he did was pull out a small vacuum. But by this point my ear was so irritated, that I could hardly sit still as he put it in my ear and when he put the suction on the bug, it pushed it against my eardrum and fireworks exploded in my ear and my head.

Then he tried a tweezers also, to get an idea how tight the bug was in there. Again, I couldn’t handle the pain. Between the tears, I began apologizing… but he quickly assured me none of this was my fault. (when will I learn not to apologize for things out of my control!)

And then he said the sweetest words in the world…
we’re going to put you to sleep to do this.

Then I remembered that when we arrived, I noticed they shared a building with the Surgery Center of Lancaster. My impression of the place rose to near heaven status… they have anesthetists who have magical potions that provide peace. Hallelujah!

Thankfully I had not eaten or drank anything other than water that morning and within an hour I walked across the hall and was in the prep room for surgery at noon. Amazing place!

Waiting for peace

As I lay there waiting… I could NOT believe I was again prepping for surgery and for what…
a freakin’ bug in my ear!

Then the IV nurse arrived and I groaned. In my joy to be put to sleep, I totally forgot an IV would be involved.  The veins in my hands and arms have had so many IVs that they now put out a force feed whenever a needle comes near them. Even the best nurses have a hard time finding a vein that will take a needle. This nurse was good, but the first two attempts only involved pain and no inserted needles. While the third time also involved pain, thankfully she found a vein that worked.

In need of happy pills!

Dr. Dorf arrival was comforting as he gave me info about his plans. He figured it would only take a few minutes after I was out to remove the bugger.

Then another star of the day arrived! A nurse, Dusty, who brought happy juice to insert into my IV to help me relax until I get anesthesia. Peace was on its way!

Obviously by this time, with being in a gown and having to give info about prior surgeries, most of them knew some of my accident story, but with being in discomfort, I wasn’t saying much. Jerry says soon after I got the relaxing meds, I talked non-stop, giving them all the details of it. I have no memory of this, so I’m glad I didn’t start spilling secrets.

I vaguely remember being wheeled into the OR and transferring to another table, but then it was lights out. Waking up in recovery was easy peasy. I wasn’t nauseous and was only slightly groggy for a short time. I had some pressure in my ear and felt like there was water in it that I wanted to shake out, but no severe pain. I was served the signature recovery room drink and entree, ginger ale and crackers.

The procedure had gone well, but I was disappointed to hear that the bugger made a small tear in my eardrum, which explains the excruciating pain whenever they tried any procedure.

I was discharged with numbing and antibiotic ear drops. After a stop at Panera for soup, we came home. I was exhausted, plus I knew my body needed the rest, so I slept for hours.

Around ten hours after the surgery, my ear felt almost back to normal. Over that time, I had some small painless popping sounds in my ear and the feeling of water being in it decreased. I’m not supposed to get any water in my ear before my followup in a week. That visit will also include a hearing test to determine if any damage has been done to my hearing.

The culprit!

So any answers to what the name of this bitch bug is?

What are the chances of something people always talk about as one of the freakiest things that could happen, actually happening to me??

Enough already!

I never want to feel that again and I hope none of you ever feel it either!

THE MORNING AFTER UPDATE: My ear feels good and it seems like my hearing wasn’t affected (or at least not enough to notice) I’ve been performing all kinds of tests on myself with phone calls, music, etc. and I think I can hear as well with it as with the other one :)


So what freaky stories do you have or know?


  1. TracyM
    July 06, 2012 | 01:53 AM| Reply

    Oh My! What a story! I’m so glad I didn’t ‘bug’ you for details earlier while we were all pretending to be helpful friends with funny remedies.Love your write up… as I was worried when it took so long for an update! Whew! After you get your medical bills, I’m hoping that bug was not priceless!

    • Janet Oberholtzer
      July 06, 2012 | 09:14 AM| Reply

      That’s what I love about FB, you can get info from many others and I was glad for every remedies sent my way! Couldn’t use most of them, but you never know what might work. 
      And as for the medical bills, here’s hoping there’s some magical remedy to make them disappear :) 

  2. Dawn
    July 06, 2012 | 09:06 AM| Reply

    Wow, what a freaky story that was but I must admit you made me laugh in spots because thankfully it’s one of those stories you can laugh about later.  I sure hope your ear is 100% ok too.  Hmmm, freaky stories, can’t say I have any really, guess that’s a good thing (knock on wood).

    • Janet Oberholtzer
      July 06, 2012 | 09:17 AM| Reply

      I kept saying that to Jerry… this will be funny someday, right??
      And he promptly replied, “Yea, as soon as they remove what is bugging you.” Which wasn’t really funny at the time, but it did make me smile. 

      And good news, my hearing seems fine this morning! :)

  3. KCLAnderson (Karen)
    July 06, 2012 | 09:13 AM| Reply

    O.M.G. What an ordeal! I once heard a story (probably an urban legend) about a woman who had a cockroach crawl in her ear and lay eggs in her sinuses…she looked like she had black eyes. Eeeeewww.

    • Janet Oberholtzer
      July 06, 2012 | 09:38 AM| Reply

      Omg! This was creepy, that is beyond creepy! Makes me so glad Jerry killed it right away. 

  4. shirleyhs
    July 06, 2012 | 09:34 AM| Reply

    Wow. I followed you with concern yesterday and loved your documentation of this amazing event today. You are an excellent reporter on the Janet Oberholtzer beat.

    Long ago, our son had a bug in his ear that we at first didn’t believe until we put our own ears next to his. Fortunately, we “irrigated” it and it came right out. I’ll send him this story so that he can discover what he missed.

    May all be restored–hearing, health, humor–and may the costs be affordable.

    • Janet Oberholtzer
      July 06, 2012 | 09:39 AM| Reply

      I can’t imagine how your son could handle the pain, maybe it was a smaller bug! Glad irrigating worked to remove it. 
      Thanks for your well wishes!

  5. Janis
    July 06, 2012 | 12:15 PM| Reply

    Okay, you have officially spent too many chits on Completely Effed Up Once-In-A-Lifetime dashes to the ER, woman.  Stop it immediately.

    Glad it’s out and over with — how awful!

    • Janet Oberholtzer
      July 06, 2012 | 12:22 PM| Reply

      Agree! Agree! I plan to stop now and for here forward I will have a boring life!

  6. karen
    July 06, 2012 | 11:45 PM| Reply

    wow Janet,, glad all is well

  7. Diana Trautwein
    July 09, 2012 | 12:23 AM| Reply

    Holy crap, woman – that thing was HUGE. So glad you’re doing better now, but very sorry you had to go through it in the first place. Post an update after next week’s visit, okay?

  8. Terri Trimble
    July 14, 2012 | 01:34 PM| Reply

    Oh MY!  I hope that no one ever goes through what you did!  Please get well soon!

  9. Debhass
    July 14, 2012 | 06:16 PM| Reply

    I know a friend of mine who had a bug in her ear while we were camping in Delaware many years ago w/our families and after retiring to our tents for the nite she had a buzzing in her ear which she began to scream “Get it out” Get it out” It keeps buzzing…so after what seemed like an eternity, we got some eardrops “I happened to have swimmers ear” and we were able to drown and drain the HUGE bug from her ear….  Well the rest is history, but we’re all still here to tell the tale…

  10. Andrea Martin
    July 14, 2012 | 07:40 PM| Reply

    Hi Janet……….So glad to hear your bug ordeal is OVER !  Dr. Dorf is our family ENT specialist and is GREAT !  Far from cheap, but GREAT !  His “bedside manner” is one of the BEST around Lanc. County !   I’ll have to mention your name when we see him again in a few months !  Blessings ! 

  11. Emily Lambrecht
    December 19, 2012 | 08:59 PM| Reply

    I’m glad everything ended up working out! My ears started hurting as I read this story.

  12. yopo
    February 08, 2013 | 02:14 PM| Reply

    oh my..I just got a big one this morning.went to the doc and they just could get half of it, the other half still deep inside net to the drum…don’t want surgery, I can’t afford it, I have no insurance. I got antibiotic and other drops and need to wait 2 more days to go back to the doc is the bug still there (I don’t wanna get back, it hurts like hell), he used tweezers 3 times and flushed twice. Pray for me so the rest of the bug comes out with the drops! haha

  13. Healinghandsde
    October 19, 2013 | 12:57 PM| Reply

    This just happened to me last night. I woke up after only 2 hours with that intense crackling sound that brought me to my knees. My wife rushed me to the ER and I had about what you described in detail. They were able to get half the bug out & I have to wait until Monday to see an ENT specialist. So much for the weekend. Glad to hear you are doing fine after all the treatments. Makes me feel a little better.

  14. justcallmenell
    November 03, 2013 | 05:57 AM| Reply

    I’m glad you got the bug out and that you’re fine, and have no hearing loss. Your story was very interesting for me to read, because I’m a writer and the way you wrote it was EXACTLY the way I would have written it. It felt like I was telling the story myself. Anyway, I want to share my freaky story. I am tetrified (combo of petrified and terrified, lol) of rats. I was working at a doctor’s office that had them. Well, I heard a noise by the microwave and turned to see what it was and a rat jumped in my pocket. I could feel it scrambling and moving about. I screamed and screamed and screamed. My co-worker was frantic not knowing how to help me. My (scrubs) shirt would have had to go over my head so I was afraid to pull it up for fear the rat would run up my arm or worse, on my face. Every solution I could think of was worse than that thing actually being in my pocket. Finally, I was about to rip my shirt off when the movement stopped. And I could tell by the relief in my co-worker’s face that it had jumped out. That was 15 years ago, and to this day I still have nightmares every so often.

  15. Charlotte
    November 18, 2013 | 05:11 PM| Reply

    Are you having like digging sounds? Cause I think I might have it too

    • Rina
      December 30, 2013 | 10:17 PM| Reply

      I was camping out beside a dam when I woke up before the sun with flying noises in my right ear. My instant thought was that a bug had flown in there as there is no mistaking flying bug noises. I quickly sat up in a daze and flurried my head around to shake it out. It wasn’t coming out after that, and the flying noises stopped. I went back to sleep and it woke me again, this time it felt like it was wriggling in my ear. Every now and then it would stop, but start back up again every 4 mins or so. When I laid still I could more hear it, then feel it. It felt like i could hear it digging through my ear. I was stuck out in the middle of nowhere for the next 4 hrs and had to drive to an ER. There the doctor saw me and used two syringe flushes of water in my ear to flush it out into a receiving cup under my ear. This was extremely painful as my eardrum was already sore from the attempts to get the bug out. He was able to see the bug in my ear canal after that and used tweezers to get it out. It was a BEETLE! AHHH! Fairly small and covered in wax – poor thing died in there… Not sure when lol. The doctor explained that the beetle’s attempts to get out of my ear had inflamed the inside of my ear, and that I could possibly get an infection from it. So after that, it was a trip to the chemist and now I take anti-biotics and anti-inflamitory ear drops for the next week.. This happened yesterday, and I am still feeling/hearing phantom wriggling/digging, and have slight ear aches every now and then after the ordeal.
      I suggest you may have a tiny bug in yours… Sounds like it. You get that feeling that something isn’t right, or that the bug has left the ear itself, and that your not sure if your making it up or not. But I definitely did, so just go to the Doc’s and get them to flush your ear. Could even be bed buds that would only crawl in at night, so you wouldn’t hear it during the day coz they go back into your pillow seams, bed posts etc. Good luck!

  16. juliana_camila
    December 24, 2013 | 06:10 PM| Reply

    IOSH – Lately I would be down on cash and debts were eating me from everywhere!! That was UNTIL I learned to earn money on the internet. I went to surveymoneymaker period net, and started doing surveys for money, and doing so I’ve been much more able to do my things! I’m happy, i did this!! With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. WRhe

  17. Antoine
    June 16, 2014 | 05:13 AM| Reply

    Thank you for this story, this is happening to me right now as I type. I’m flushing my ear with peroxide and will go to the doctors as soon as it opens. This started around 4 a.m. and I’m writing this around 5 a.m. You’re story has kept me calm and I’m thankful to you and Jerry!

    • Janet Oberholtzer
      June 18, 2014 | 10:13 PM| Reply

      Sorry to hear about that. Hope you and/or the doctors got the bug out quickly. How are you doing now?

  18. DGC113
    July 17, 2014 | 10:22 PM| Reply

    You sound like a complete pussy. Obviously a low tolerance for pain. To compare water in your ear to water boarding is ridiculous, but I assume you already knew that. Same thing happened to me except I drowned the bug myself after it had burrowed its way up next to my eardrum. Once a bug flies in your ear, it won’t come out on its own, only go deeper in which I found out with a quick/painless google search.

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