Symptoms A-Z

Bleeding From The Ear Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Bleeding from the ear is hard to ignore. Causes for ear bleeding range from mild conditions to serious injuries or medical problems, so it's important to seek the right treatment. Read more below to learn why you may be experiencing ear bleeding and how to seek treatment.

Bleeding From The Ear Symptom Checker

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Bleeding from the Ear Explained

Bleeding from the ear is unlikely to go unnoticed. Possible causes range from mild conditions to serious injuries or medical problems [1]. Some of the causes are most likely to occur in children. Bloody discharge can originate from the ear canal leading to the eardrum, the eardrum itself, or the middle ear (the part of the ear that lies behind the eardrum). Depending on the cause, it may be just blood, or can be mixed with other fluids like pus.

Symptoms that can be associated with bleeding from the ear include:

What Causes Ear Bleeding?

Injury

  • Ear canal injury: Bleeding from the ear can come from an injury to the skin of the ear canal. Typically, the injury occurs via an inserted object, such as a cotton swab or an instrument used to remove earwax.
  • Eardrum injury: A tear in the eardrum can lead to bleeding from the ear [2]. This can occur due to increased pressure behind the eardrum, as in the case of head trauma or a middle ear infection. A foreign object inserted into the ear canal can also rupture the eardrum.
  • Head trauma: Bleeding from the ear can occur due to head trauma even without perforation of the tympanic membrane if there is a skull bone fracture with disruption of the ear canal [3].

Infection

  • Middle ear infection: Usually an infection of the middle ear will not cause discharge unless there is a perforation of the eardrum. However, if ear tubes are in place, bloody discharge from an infection can drain out from behind the eardrum. A middle ear infection can also cause blisters (pustules) to form on the eardrum. Rupture of these blisters causes a bloody discharge.
  • Ear canal infection: A chronic bacterial infection of the ear canal can lead to the development of abnormal tissue that bleeds easily [4].

Other bleeding from the ear causes

  • Polyp: Chronic inflammation in the ear can cause a polyp, a type of benign skin growth that often bleeds.
  • Abnormal blood vessels: Ear bleeding can occur due to abnormal superficial blood vessels associated with a genetic disorder.
  • Cancer: Bleeding from the ear could originate from a skin cancer on the external ear or in the ear canal. This occurs when the surface of a cancer develops bleeding ulcers. A white bump or scaly patch may be visible.

3 Possible Bleeding From The Ear Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced bleeding from the ear. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Foreign body in external ear

An ear foreign body is anything that gets stuck in the ear canal other than earwax. This may include food, toy pieces, beads, buttons, disk batteries, cotton swab, paper, or insects. Foreign bodies are usually trapped in the outer ear canal.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: ear fullness/pressure, ear discharge, pain in one ear canal, bleeding from the ear, pus leaking from the ear

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Bleeding From The Ear Symptom Checker

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Burst ear drum

The ear drum is a thin membrane that vibrates as sound hits it, transmitting that vibration into signals that the brain understands! When it bursts, your hearing is affected. It typically happens after some force to the ear drum, such as a blow to the ear, an exploding firecracker, a fall onto water, or even a sharp object in the ear.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: ear canal pain, constant ear pain, ringing in the ears, vertigo (extreme dizziness), hearing loss

Symptoms that always occur with burst ear drum: ear canal pain, recent ear injury, constant ear pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when a bump, blow, jolt, or other head injury causes damage to the brain.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: new headache, irritability, clear runny nose, vision changes, general numbness

Symptoms that always occur with traumatic brain injury: head injury

Urgency: Emergency medical service

When to Seek Treatment for Blood in the Ear

Seek emergency treatment if:

  • Your ear bleeding starts after head trauma.
  • You have a fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit along with chronic drainage and bleeding from the ear.
  • You have sudden onset of hearing loss or a spinning sensation.

Even if emergency care is not necessary, ear bleeding should always be evaluated unless there is an obvious benign source, such as a superficial scratch visible in the ear canal.

It is particularly important to make an appointment with your medical provider if you or your child have:

  • A history of chronic ear infections.
  • Hearing loss or a spinning sensation.
  • Severe and persistent pain [5].
  • A bump or scaly area in the ear that has stayed the same or increased in size over time.
  • Bleeding that persists several days after ear tube placement.

Your medical provider may prescribe one or more of the following bleeding from the ear treatments, depending on the cause of the bleeding:

  • Antibiotic drops for an infection.
  • Laser therapy for abnormal blood vessels.
  • Referral for surgical management of a cancer.
  • Referral for ear new or replacement ear tubes.

Many causes of ear bleeding will eventually resolve on their own. Some home treatments may also help.

  • Keep the ear dry and clean; do not go swimming until the bleeding has resolved.
  • Avoid blowing the nose forcefully, which causes increased pressure behind the ears.
  • Avoid placing any objects in the ear, especially cotton swabs such as Q-tips, which can cause or exacerbate injuries to the eardrum and ear canal.

FAQs About Bleeding From The Ear

Here are some frequently asked questions about bleeding from the ear.

What causes bleeding from the ear after a head injury?

Head trauma may cause a perforation of the eardrum, which leads to bleeding from the ear. In addition, a blow to the head can cause a skull fracture. Depending on the specific bone that is affected, the fracture can disrupt the ear canal, which also leads to bleeding. You should seek emergency treatment if you notice bleeding from the ear after a head injury.

Can bleeding from the ear be caused by an infection?

Yes, an ear infection can cause bleeding. This most commonly occurs with an infection of the middle ear - the part of the ear behind the eardrum. A middle ear infection can cause the eardrum to rupture, leading to bleeding. There may also be bleeding from the ear during a middle ear infection if tubes have been inserted into the eardrum, since the tubes allow blood and other fluid to drain. Less commonly, a chronic infection of the ear canal can cause bleeding from the ear due to the development of abnormal tissue that bleeds easily.

What kinds of injuries cause bleeding from the ear?

A skull fracture can cause bleeding from the ear due to disruption of the ear canal. In addition, perforation of the eardrum may cause ear bleeding. Tearing of the eardrum can occur due to head injury or insertion of a foreign object into the ear. In addition to bleeding, head trauma or eardrum perforation can lead to symptoms such as hearing loss or a sensation of spinning, depending on the extent of the injury.

Can skin abnormalities cause bleeding from the ear?

Yes, bleeding from the ear may originate from abnormalities of the skin of the outer ear or ear canal. Skin cancer on the ear may present with bleeding as the cancer ulcerates. In this case, a white bump or scaly area may be visible. In addition, abnormal superficial blood vessels in the ear, or telangiectasias, can bleed intermittently [6]. These can occur with the genetic disorder hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia.

Can ear tubes cause bleeding from the ear?

Bleeding may occur after insertion of ear tubes for treatment of chronic ear infections. It should not last for more than a couple of days. In addition, bleeding from the ear may be seen if there is an ear infection in the middle ear while the ear tubes are in place. Normally blood and fluid build up behind the eardrum during a middle ear infection. Part of the purpose of ear tubes is to allow relief of the pressure that results from this fluid buildup by allowing drainage, so bloody discharge may be seen from the ear when tubes are present.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Bleeding From The Ear

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have someone look in your ear with a flashlight. What is seen?
  • Do you hear a ringing or whistling sound no one else hears?
  • Is there anything coming from your ear(s)?
  • Have you noticed a change in your hearing?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

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Bleeding From The Ear Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced bleeding from the ear have also experienced:

  • 13% Ear Canal Pain
  • 10% Pain In One Ear Canal
  • 6% Headache

People who have experienced bleeding from the ear were most often matched with:

  • 46% Traumatic Brain Injury
  • 26% Foreign Body In External Ear
  • 26% Burst Ear Drum

People who have experienced bleeding from the ear had symptoms persist for:

  • 66% Less than a day
  • 22% Less than a week
  • 4% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Bleeding From The Ear Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your bleeding from the ear

References

  1. Shargorodsky J. Ear Emergencies. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated May 17, 2018. MedlinePlus Link.
  2. Miyamoto RT. Eardrum Perforation. Merck Manual Consumer Version. Updated February 2018. Merck Manual Consumer Version Link.
  3. Head Injury. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link.
  4. O'Reilly RC. Ear Injuries. Nemours: KidsHealth. Updated October 2016. KidsHealth Link.
  5. Ear - Injury. Seattle Childrens Hospital. Updated November 3, 2018. Seattle Childrens Hospital Link.
  6. Edens Hurst AC. Ataxia - Telangiectasia. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated August 6, 2017. MedlinePlus Link.

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.