Doctors have removed seven leeches from the ear of a farm worker in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, reported the Dubai newspaper Gulf News on Friday.

The newspaper quoted one of the doctors involved in the operation as saying that the patient, a 40-year-old Egyptian, had been complaining of a headache and an "unpleasant sensation in his head." A subsequent X-ray revealed that seven leeches were enthusiastically sucking blood from around his eardrum.

"The leeches had attached themselves firmly inside the ears and it was quite difficult for us to pull them out and so we had to induce local anesthesia and get them. The patient is fine. The incident will not affect his hearing," said the doctor, adding that the leeches were usually found in India, and most commonly attached themselves to peoples' legs.

The leeches removed during the 20-minute operation, each measured around two cm (0.78 inches) in length. It is not known how they got into the man's ear.

Despite the unpleasant nature of this incident, leeches have been used in medicine for thousands of years, mainly for bloodletting, although they are currently in vogue in some plastic surgery operations to prevent blood congealing. The Ukrainian writer Gogol was treated with leeches towards the end of his life, although there is little evidence to suggest that the six leeches placed inside each nostril were of any medicinal benefit as he died shortly afterwards.