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The ‘buzzing’ sound a nine-year-old boy heard turned out to be a TICK

The ‘buzzing’ sound a nine-year-old boy heard turned out to be a TICK that had burrowed into his eardrum

  • A nine-year-old boy in Connecticut told doctors it felt like something was stuck in his ear 
  • Three days earlier he had heard ‘buzzing,’ a New England Medical Journal case report reveals 
  • Doctors found an American dog tick in his ear had latched onto the little boy’s eardrum, likely while he played outside at school 
  • Dog ticks carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but the boy was not infected and recovered after having the tick removed under general anesthesia 

The obnoxious buzzing in a little boy’s ear turned out to be a tick, that had embedded itself in his eardrum, a new case report reveals.  

A nine-year-old boy was brought to a New Haven, Connecticut doctor office, complaining that it felt like something was stuck in his right ear. 

He said that he’d heard ‘buzzing noises’ three days earlier, but otherwise wasn’t in pain. 

When doctors peered into his year, however, they found that the tick had burrowed its head into the little boy’s eardrum to feed, and had to surgically remove it, the new New England Journal of Medicine case study reveals. 

When doctors in New Haven, Connecticut looked in the nine-year-old boy’s right ear with a microscope, they found an American dog tick had bitten his eardrum 

Tick bites are so tiny that they are typically imperceptible. 

But they’re not typically inside an ear. 

The tiny arachnid likes to feed on parts of the body that are warm and moist, preferring the hair, groin or armpits to more breezy or exposed areas, but it is mostly opportunistic and will bite where it gets the chance. 

An ear certainly provides some insulation. 

When doctors quizzed the boy about what he’d done recently, the only thing that stood out was that he’d been playing (as usual) outside during school. 

When otolaryngologists examined the inside of his ear, the spied the tick, which had crawled into the boy’s ear and sunk  its head into his tempanic membrane or eardrum. 

Using an operative microscope – one equipped to do minor procedures that require microscopic vision – Dr Daid Kasle and Dr Erik Waldman tried to remove the tick in the office, but could quite get it. 

Careful, clean and complete removal of a tick is crucial no matter where it has bitten, because the buried head can easily become detached and, if it lingers in the tissue, can cause infection.  

Unable to accomplish that in the office, the doctors had to put the boy under general anesthesia. 

The invader, doctors discovered upon removing it, was an American dog tick.

These common pests can be found in the whole Eastern half of the US as well as along the coast of California. 

American dog ticks carry tularemia, an infectious disease that attacks the lymph nodes, eyes, skin and lungs.  

Getting tularemia typically feels like getting the flu, but it is only very rarely life-threatening. 

More importantly, American dog ticks can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a more seroius infection that can be deadly if it isn’t treated immediately and with the correct antibiotic, doxycycline. 

 Luckily for the Connecticut boy, he showed no signs of infection, although he was given antibiotic eardrops to make sure the small bite on his eardrum didn’t get infected. 

On follow-up a month later, the boy was in good health and his ear drum had healed up cleanly.