A Boy Heard a Buzzing Sound in His Ear. It Was a Tick on His Eardrum.

Stock image of a tick Getty Images

A 9-year-old boy from New England who heard a buzzing in his ear discovered it was an insect that had attached itself to his eardrum.

In a case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors have detailed how the child visited a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist after complaining that he could feel something inside his right ear. The boy told doctors he had heard a buzzing noise inside his ear for the past three days.

Before the strange noise started, the boy had been playing outside at his school in Connecticut.

By examining his ear, pediatricians discovered a tick was stuck inside. The surrounding area was inflamed: as shown in a photo of the inside of the boy's ear.

A tick which doctors found in the ear of a 9-year-old boy. New England Journal of Medicine.

Despite the odd sensation in his ear, the boy wasn't suffering from any pain or tinnitus, and his hearing was intact.

Doctors tried to remove the insect burrowed inside the child's ear with a special microscope, but were unable to take it out. So physicians decided to send the boy for surgery.

The insect had attached itself to his eardrum. Its capitulum—which the tick uses to feed—was buried under a layer of his eardrum. Surgeons were able to remove the bug.

After putting the boy to sleep, surgeons were able to separate the tick's mouth from the eardrum.

The tick was identified as a Dermacentor variabilis, commonly known as the American dog tick. This tick is the primary vector, or carrier of disease, in the U.S.

Once the tick was removed, the boy didn't have any signs of illness that could have been caught from the tick. He was prescribed an antibiotic to help heal his infected ear. After a month, he was doing well and his ear had healed well, the doctors wrote.

Dr. Erik Waldman, chief of pediatric otolaryngology at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital, also worked on the case. She told Live Science it was tough to remove the tick because its mouth was stuck to the boy's eardrum.

"It wasn't coming out easily," Kasle said.

Dr. David Kasle, an otolaryngology resident at Yale New Haven Hospital, told Live Science this was the first time he had worked on such a case.

While what the boy thought he heard was buzzing, it was more likely the sound of the insect crawling in his ear canal, Kasle explained.

"Essentially, the closer any sound gets to the eardrum, the louder it's going to be [heard] by the patient.

"As this bug got closer and closer, [the boy] probably heard it louder and louder."