Many people have felt a “ringing” in their ears at some point or another, which can be symptomatic of tinnitus, a condition that affects up to one-fifth of people.
But a little boy in Connecticut received a different, rather odd, diagnosis after picking up on “buzzing” noises in his right ear. The 9-year-old didn’t have tinnitus, but, instead, a tick had become embedded in his eardrum after he played outside at school. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
His story was published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. The case report explains, “A 9-year-old boy presented to the pediatric otolaryngology clinic with a sensation of the presence of a foreign body in his right ear. He also reported that he had heard buzzing noises in his right ear 3 days earlier. He lived in Connecticut and had been playing outdoors at school.”
The boy didn’t experience pain or a loss of hearing, the report says. “On physical examination, a tick was seen on the right tympanic membrane with surrounding inflammation,” the report explains. The tympanic membrane is more commonly known as the eardrum. The removal of the tick was attempted at the otolaryngology clinic, but the removal procedure, which involved an instrument called an operative microscope, failed. “The patient was subsequently transferred to the operating room for removal of the tick while he was under general anesthesia. The tick was again seen attached to the tympanic membrane; the tick’s [mouth] was buried beneath the epidermal layer of the tympanic membrane,” the new report says.
The tick was successfully removed with an operative microscope and another tool called a day hook. “Subsequent pathological testing identified the tick as Dermacentor variabilis,” the report says. “After extraction of the tick, the patient had no signs or symptoms suggestive of systemic illness, and he was treated with ciprofloxacin eardrops for an abrasion of the tympanic membrane. One month later, the patient was doing well; he had no fever or rashes, and the tympanic membrane had healed well.”
We’ll leave you with this advice: Be aware of your surroundings if you plan on spending time in wooded areas during the summer months.
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