Three days after a 9-year-old Connecticut boy started to hear a strange buzzing sound in his ear, his parents took him to a doctor at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital.
The boy reported that he had no pain in his ear, no hearing loss, and no ringing or signs of tinnitus. He said he’d been playing outdoors recently on school days.
Then the doctor, Erik Waldman, looked into the boy’s ear and saw a true vision of horror—a brown arachnid burrowing into the epidermal layer of the eardrum and feasting on the child’s blood.
The hospital captured an image of the tick lodged into the right tympanic membrane, which was published along with a case study on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The tick couldn’t be removed at the doctor’s office, so the boy was moved to an operating room.
Co-author of the report, otolaryngologist David Kasle told CNN that “in any kid, removal of a foreign body from an ear is difficult—but especially in this case,” because the tick’s bloodsucking mouth probe was “dug in,” and pulling out the tick would likely tear the membrane.
“The eardrum essentially acts as a part of a pretty complex lever mechanism to allow sound to travel from the outer ear into the inner ear and through the middle ear, where there are ossicles—small bones,” Kasle told CNN. “You need that drum intact to get good sound.”
Kasle was able to remove the tick’s feeding structure with a fine hook tool. The boy’s eardrum remained intact. Tests a month later revealed the child did not get rashes or fever from the tick.
However, the above image of the tick will be embedded in your mind for at least a month.