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Ear Cleaning or Foreign Body Removal

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Why does my child need an ear cleaning or foreign body removal?

Ear wax may have built up in your child’s ear(s) making it hard to hear or pass a hearing test. Sometimes a large amount of wax makes it difficult for your ENT provider to examine the ear properly.

Alternatively, your child may have put something in the ear that got stuck and couldn’t be removed in the emergency room, urgent care, or medical clinic.

In both of these cases, an assessment is always performed in the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) office to determine whether removal can be performed in the ENT office or must be performed while they’re asleep (under general anesthesia). Most of the time there is no urgency to have the ear cleaned; however, some material needs to be removed urgently to prevent permanent ear damage (e.g., lithium batteries).

How is the ear cleaned in the ENT office?

The ENT provider will bring you and your child to a special room where your child will be positioned on an examination table. With the use of a microscope and special tools, the provider will remove ear wax or foreign material from your child’s ear by simply pulling it out of the ear canal. If your child is unable to hold still during the procedure, having severe pain, or the material is too close to the eardrum, your child may need to have the ear cleaned under general anesthesia.

How is the ear cleaned in the Operating Room?

General anesthesia is very safe and routinely used for procedures. Prior to your child’s procedure, you will have a chance to meet the anesthesiologist and ask any remaining questions. Your child will be monitored throughout the procedure.

When your child is asleep in the operating room, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon will use a microscope and special tools to removal the ear wax and any foreign material from the ear by pulling it out through the natural opening of the ear canal.

Are there any instructions I need to follow before surgery?

Your child must have a physical examination by his or her provider within 30 days before surgery to make sure he or she is in good health. The doctor you see needs to complete the History and Physical form provided by our office. You must bring the completed form with you the day of surgery. For your child's safety, it is very important that he or she have an empty stomach when anesthesia is given. Please follow Children’s Hospitals’ Eating and Drinking Guidelines. If you do not follow these guidelines, your child's surgery will be cancelled. If your ENT provider has requested that you take or stop medications prior to surgery, please follow their instructions provided to you.

What can I expect after surgery?

The procedure itself usually takes no more than 15 minutes. Your child will wake up in the recovery room usually with 15 to 20 minutes after surgery.  When your child is awake, he or she will be taken to the discharge area to complete the recovery. You can be with your child once he or she has been transferred to the discharge area. Your provider may give you a prescription for ear drops to use after surgery to aid with the recovery process.

Your child may have an earache the day of surgery. You can treat this short term discomfort with Tylenol® (acetaminophen) or Children's Motrin® (ibuprofen). You will get a Discharge Instructions sheet before you go home which will indicate how much medicine to give and how often. Most of the time, your child does not need another visit in the ENT clinic. If your surgeon recommends a follow-up appointment, you will need to call the clinic to have it scheduled. You can expect your child to be back to his or her regular diet and activities within 24 hours after surgery.


The information provided in this brochure is not specific to your child. This information is provided as a service to our patients. The information is for educational and informational purposes only and should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of your child’s physician. If you have any questions, please call your Ear, Nose, and Throat clinic.

Reviewed 10/2022

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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