It isn’t that uncommon for people to feel more than a little bit uneasy after a tiny bug flies in their ear, but for Melbourne, Florida woman Katie Holley, it was a bigger insect — a cockroach — that flew into her ear one early morning in April, causing her more than one week of discomfort.
In a story she had first told to Self, Holley related what happened on April 14, when she woke up at around 1:45 a.m. with an unusual feeling, similar to an ice chip being stuck in her left earhole. After collecting herself and using a Q-tip to check for the source of the cold sensation, she realized that a cockroach had crawled into her ear, as she had pulled out two “dark, brown skinny pieces” that had turned out to be cockroach legs. According to Holley, she could clearly feel and hear the insect as it moved around in her ear.
“It wasn’t necessarily painful — it was like when you plug your ears really hard and you hear that hum sound in your head. It was like that but continuously in the left side of my head,” Holley recalled, in a separate interview with BuzzFeed News.
When Katie Holley’s husband was only able to extract another pair of legs, the couple drove to a hospital emergency room, where a doctor treated her left ear with lidocaine, then attempted to remove the cockroach. Holley said that she spent the next two minutes feeling the bug “thrash around” in her ear as it was being killed by the lidocaine. The doctor then removed the cockroach, and Holley and her husband returned home, thinking the ordeal was over.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case after all, as nine days later, Holley visited her family physician, complaining that the ear drops she was using didn’t go down her ear. She also suffered from hearing problems and could hear “strange crackling sounds” despite the fact that the cockroach was killed during the ER visit and appeared to have been fully extracted. At that point, she was advised that parts of the dead roach remained lodged in her left ear.
Katie Holley’s family doctor was able to pull out six more pieces of the dead cockroach but advised her to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist, as she couldn’t remove all of the remaining parts. On the same day, the ENT doctor Holley visited started out by placing a microscope next to her ear, which confirmed that “something [was still] in there.” It turned out to be most of the cockroach’s remains, despite how Holley was assured by the ER doctor that the roach was removed completely.
“Using a tool that looked like very large scissors, he extracted the entire head, upper torso, more limbs, and antennae,” Holley remembered.
“I just sobbed. This go-around, without a numbing agent, I could feel every extraction and hear a lovely crunching sound as the pieces were dislodged. The ENT assured me that he got all of the remaining pieces of the roach.”
According to BuzzFeed News, Katie Holley remains “mentally scarred” after spending nine days with a cockroach stuck in her ear, though she is trying to take solace in the fact that many other people around the world have experienced something similar, or even worse. Live Science cited a 2006 study published in the South African Medical Journal, where doctors at a Cape Town hospital removed 23 insects, including 10 German cockroaches, from people’s ears in a two-year period. There have also been multiple examples of people suffering from extreme pain and/or discomfort as a result of insects, and in one case, fruit fly larvae, getting lodged in their ears.