Read below about bleeding from the ear, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your bleeding from the ear from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Bleeding From the Ear Symptoms

Bleeding from the ear is unlikely to go unnoticed. Possible causes range from mild conditions to serious injuries or medical problems. 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:

Bleeding From the Ear Causes Overview

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. 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.

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.

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.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Bleeding From the Ear

Updated on Aug. 29, 2018

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced bleeding from the ear. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.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.

    Problem resolves after object is removed.

    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 Checker

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  2. 2.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.

    Smaller perforations heal over days to weeks almost 100% of the time. Larger perforations may need a procedure. If healing doesn't happen in 8 weeks, surgery may be necessary.

    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
  3. 3.Traumatic Brain Injury

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

    Varies depending on severity

    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

Bleeding From the Ear Treatments and Relief

Seek emergency treatment if:

  • Your ear bleeding starts after head trauma.
  • You have a fever over 102 degrees F 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.
  • 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. 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

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

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our bleeding from the ear symptom checker to find out more.

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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 had symptoms persist for:

    • 66% Less Than a Day
    • 22% Less Than a Week
    • 4% Over a Month
  • 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
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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