It should not come as a surprise to learn that the northeast sees the highest rates of tick-borne diseases. Massachusetts has the fourth highest amount of tick-borne disease cases of all the states in the country, while Pennsylvania has the most. Nearly 70,000 Massachusetts residents have fallen victim to tick-borne diseases, and most of these are lyme disease cases. Most northeasterners are probably aware that wearing long sleeves and a hat are two of several ways to prevent tick bites while outdoors. Everyone in the region knows that avoiding such protective measures is unwise since ticks can easily wind up in a person’s hair or on a person’s legs, as ticks often land in hair after falling from trees, while others jump onto human skin from long blades of grass. Once a tick lands on a person and begins to suck blood, they can easily go unnoticed unless a person thoroughly inspects his/her body upon returning home from the outdoors. While ticks are small and difficult to see, having another person inspect hard-to-see parts of the body for ticks should work to pinpoint any active bloodsuckers. Unless, of course, a tick somehow winds up deep inside a person’s ear canal. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to a 9 year-old child in New England, and while the tick was successfully removed from his ear, doing so was not so easy.

The boy began to notice something was wrong with his inner ear after he heard a “buzzing” sound that nobody else seemed to hear. It did not take long before the boy realized that something had to be lodged within his ear canal. Luckily, the boy did not feel any pain and did not experience tinnitus or hearing loss, but his ear problem was certainly making him feel anxious and uncomfortable. Once the boy’s parents took him to the doctor, his condition was identified. It turned out the boy had “otoacariasis”, which is the infestation of the inner ear by an arthropod. The specimen was an American dog tick, and it had burrowed into his eardrum. The tick was so deeply embedded within the boy’s eardrum that he had to have it removed under an anesthetic in an operating room. Luckily, the invading tick was not diseased.

Have you ever suspected an insect or arachnid was infesting one of your body cavities?