If the boogeyman and bed bugs weren’t enough to keep you up at night, here’s another reason to lose sleep. The Telegraph reports that a man in Australia woke up in the middle of the night with a sudden onset of ear pain only to discover that a cockroach had lodged itself in his ear canal.
Hendrik Helmer, a warehouse supervisor from Darwin, Australia, was sleeping soundly early Wednesday morning when a sharp pain in his right ear roused him. According to Daily Nation, Helmer knew almost immediately that some kind of insect had taken refuge in his ear, but he didn’t know what kind.
"I was hoping it was not a poisonous spider," Helmer told radio station 105.7 ABC Darwin. "I was hoping it didn't bite me." Helmer told the radio station that after suspecting a creepy crawler had nestled in his ear, he tried to suck the unknown insect out with a vacuum. When that didn’t work, he attempted to flush the bug out by squirting water into his ear. That, too, failed.
When the pain became unbearable, Helmer gave up on his futile effort to extract the cockroach and instead woke up his roommate, who rushed him to the hospital. A doctor at the hospital tried first to dislodge the insect with olive oil, but the cockroach simply wouldn’t budge and even found its way deeper into Helmer’s ear canal.
"Near the 10-minute mark ... he started to stop burrowing but he was still in the throes of death-twitching," Helmer said. That’s when doctors finally used forceps to pluck the insect from his ear canal, revealing an .8-inch-long cockroach.
"[The doctor] said, 'You know how I said a little cockroach? That may have been an underestimate,’” Helmer told the radio station. "They said they had never pulled an insect this large out of someone's ear."
Helmer’s friends were disturbed by the incident, and many of them resolved to wear headphones at night to keep any curious cockroaches from crawling into their ears.
Helmer’s experience with the cockroach is something few people will ever have to stomach, but incidents of insects finding homes in ear canals are not as rare as we’d ike to believe. A few years ago, in New York, doctors discovered a nest of mites and mite eggs inside the ear canal of a 70-year-old man whose ear had itched for months. Doctors who treated the man said finding mites in a patient’s ear is very rare.
"It's much more common to see a cockroach in the ear," Dr. Ian Storper, director of otology at the New York Head & Neck Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Fox News in Oct. 2012. Storper had reportedly seen at least a dozen cockroaches in ears over his 30 years in medicine.
There was also the case of the spider that was discovered living inside the ear canal of a woman in China. Typically when something like this happens, doctors will attempt to remove the critter using some kind of solution, whether it be oil, alcohol or an anesthetic, to irrigate the canal. Forceps might be used, too, to retrieve the bug once it has died.
"It's very important to pull out the whole thing," Storper said. "If you leave legs, you can get a bacterial infection.”