Why is my ear bleeding and how to treat it?

Medically reviewed by Richard Honaker M.D.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ear bleeding warrants immediate attention from a doctor to identify causes and ensure proper evaluation.
  2. Causes range from infections and minor injuries to tumors, high blood pressure, skin conditions, foreign objects, and changes in air pressure.
  3. Treatment varies based on the cause, with minor incidents possibly healing on their own and severe cases requiring medical intervention for infections, injuries, tumors, foreign objects, or pressure changes.

Overview

Experiencing bleeding from the ear can be alarming, with potential causes ranging from infections to a ruptured eardrum. The bleeding may originate from various parts of the ear—outer, middle, or inner. The outer ear, visible to the eye, channels sound into the ear canal, connecting with the inner ear. The middle ear, responsible for transmitting sounds to the inner ear, maintains pressure balance through the eustachian tube, with the delicate eardrum separating it from the outer ear. The inner ear plays a vital role in converting sound vibrations into nerve signals for the brain and contributing to balance. While many causes of ear bleeding, such as infections or pressure changes, are typically not serious, it’s essential to be aware that some, like head injuries, infections, or rare cancers, require immediate attention. In this blog are the reasons for ear bleeding and potential treatment options.

What are the reasons for ear bleeding?

The reasons for ear bleeding can be varied from infections to minor injuries or more severe health conditions. Here is the list of reasons for ear bleeding: 

1. Ear infections

Ear infections, triggered by bacteria or viruses in the middle ear, can lead to swelling and fluid accumulation behind the eardrum. This pressure buildup may result in the eardrum rupture, causing fluid or blood leakage. If your ear bleeding is due to an infection, accompanying symptoms may include ear pain, a congested nose, slight hearing loss, or a fever of 100 F or higher. 

Typically, ear infections resolve independently within a week or two, often without intervention. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can alleviate pain and fever. In some cases, doctors may prescribe antibiotics to address the infection.

It’s essential to contact your doctor if you experience severe pain, notice fluid, pus, or blood discharge from your ear, or develop a fever. Recognizing symptoms, understanding potential outcomes, and taking appropriate action for your well-being are essential.

Experiencing ear bleeding and pain?
Bacterial infection might be the cause.

2. Minor eardrum injuries

When a rupture occurs, fluid may drain from the ear, varying in consistency from clear to pus-filled or bloody. Additionally, you may experience sudden and fleeting ear pain, ringing in the ear, hearing loss, or a sensation of spinning, known as vertigo.

In most cases, minor eardrum tears heal naturally within a few weeks. If symptoms persist, your doctor may consider placing a patch over the hole for closure. In more severe cases, surgical intervention involving using a small piece of your skin to plug the hole may be necessary. Seek medical attention if you encounter:

Understanding the causes and potential outcomes of minor eardrum injuries helps individuals to recognize symptoms and take appropriate steps toward their health and recovery.

3. Tumors or Growths

While the chances of ear cancer are exceedingly rare, with U.S. doctors diagnosing only around 300 cases annually, it’s crucial to be aware of potential signs. Typically originating as skin cancer on the outer ear, the condition, if left untreated, can progress to the ear canal and deeper ear regions. If ear bleeding is attributed to cancer, additional symptoms may include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Ear pain and bleeding
  • Fluid drainage from the ear

The primary approach to treating ear cancer involves surgical removal of the tumor. Post-surgery radiation therapy may be administered to eliminate any residual cancer cells.

It’s advisable to consult your dermatologist if you observe a persistent, scaly patch of skin on your ear that fails to heal. Such observations could serve as early indicators of skin cancer, necessitating immediate attention and medical intervention.

4. High blood pressure

Increased pressure within the blood vessels can lead to inner ear hemorrhage. The anterior inferior cerebellar artery supplies this condition and supports the inner ear artery. The artery further divides into the cochlear artery and the anterior vestibular artery. This increased pressure may contribute to either gradual or abrupt hearing loss.

5. Skin Conditions

Skin-related incidents often play a role in instances of bleeding ears.

  • Cuts: Minor cuts on the skin’s surface can occur during routine activities such as shaving, using headphones, wearing glasses, leaning against surfaces, or even getting a haircut.
  • Ear Pimples: Skin conditions like contact dermatitis, acne, rashes, or infections (such as chickenpox) can develop ear pimples, which may bleed, especially if attempting to squeeze or pop them.
  • Scratching Scabs: Picking at scabs can result in ear bleeding, and there is a risk of infection in such cases.

Understanding these skin-related factors provides insight into the potential causes of ear bleeding, emphasizing the importance of gentle care and seeking medical attention when needed.

6. An object stuck in the ear

When an object becomes lodged or is forcefully pushed into the ear canal, it has the potential to puncture the eardrum, resulting in ear bleeding and accompanying symptoms such as:

  • Pain: Any object in the ear canal may cause discomfort or pain.
  • Pressure: Individuals may experience a sensation of pressure within the ear.
  • Fluid Discharge: Ear bleeding can be accompanied by fluid discharge from the ear.
  • Hearing Loss: Puncturing the eardrum can lead to temporary or permanent hearing impairment.
  • Dizziness: Dizziness may be an additional symptom, emphasizing the potential complications associated with foreign objects in the ear.

Addressing the presence of objects in the ear canal promptly is crucial to prevent further damage and alleviate associated symptoms. Seeking professional medical assistance is advisable in such situations.

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7. Changes in air pressure

Abrupt changes in air pressure, such as those experienced during plane landings or scuba diving, can impact your eardrum, resulting in sensations of stuffiness and pain. This phenomenon, barotrauma, may lead to injuries, including eardrum tears, with potential fluid or blood leakage. Additional symptoms of barotrauma include:

  • A feeling of stuffed ears
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ears

To mitigate the risk of barotrauma during air travel, consider maintaining steady ear pressure by chewing gum, yawning, swallowing, pinching your nose, and blowing out to “pop” your ears open.

Typically, barotrauma-related issues resolve shortly after landing. If symptoms persist, using a decongestant to open the blocked eustachian tube may be beneficial. In some cases, medical intervention may be required, involving a small cut in the eardrum to equalize pressure and drain fluid. See an online doctor if you experience:

  • Blood or fluid leakage from the ear
  • Fever
  • Severe pain

How to stop ear bleeding?

The approach to addressing ear bleeding varies depending on its cause. If the bleeding results from a minor incident such as scratching or an ear pimple that has ceased within a few minutes, allowing it to heal naturally is often sufficient.

However, if you doubt that the bleeding originates from inside the ear, it’s better to see a doctor immediately, as neglecting proper cleaning of blood inside the ear can lead to complications like dizziness, headaches, or hearing loss.

Self-care at home is not advisable for more severe cases or those accompanied by additional symptoms like dizziness or hearing loss. In such instances, a healthcare provider may refer you to an otolaryngologist, a specialist in ear, nose, and throat disorders (ENT).

Potential treatments for ear bleeding include:

  1. Ear Infection: Antibiotics, like amoxicillin and ciprofloxacin, may be prescribed if there is concern about a bacterial infection. Viral infections typically do not respond to antibiotics, but over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage symptoms like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  2. Eardrum Rupture: Small ruptures may heal on their own, while antibiotic drops like ofloxacin otic could be prescribed for faster healing. Surgical treatment may be necessary if the eardrum doesn’t heal naturally, involving patching with tissue from another area.
  3. Tumor: Cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination.
  4. Foreign Object: If a healthcare provider cannot safely remove an object in the office, surgical removal might be necessary.

Once the cause of ear bleeding is identified, tailored treatments can be explored in collaboration with your doctor. These treatments address the root cause, leading to the cessation of bleeding. They may include antibiotics, watchful waiting, pain medications, warm compresses, and ear protective measures. Following your doctor’s guidance is crucial for a comprehensive and effective recovery.

Ear pain and bleeding indicate eardrum rupture.
Delays can lead to loss of hearing.

Consult a Doctor

If you experience ear bleeding, you should always consult with a doctor. Given that some causes of ear bleeding can pose serious risks, you must contact a healthcare provider or an emergency medical clinic as soon as you observe the bleeding. This becomes particularly crucial if the bleeding follows recent head trauma.

While specific causes, like ear infections, may be less severe, neglecting treatment for the infection or any underlying issue may lead to complications or further problems. It is advisable to schedule an appointment with your doctor regardless of your doubts about the cause.

FAQs about ear bleeding without pain

What to do if your ear starts bleeding after cleaning?

If you experience bleeding after cleaning your ears, the possible reason might be a scratch from a Q-tip while cleaning or from your fingernail. This type of bleeding stops on its own; however, if the bleeding doesn’t stop, the reason might be an underlying infection, injury to the eardrum or recent head trauma. Therefore, see a doctor if you experience pain, fever, and bleeding, as the condition calls for a severe issue. 

How do I know if I ruptured my eardrum?

You can identify a ruptured ear drum if you experience symptoms like radiating pain, bloody discharge from the ear, loss of hearing, vertigo or spinning, or nausea and vomiting. In some cases, the patient doesn’t experience pain; instead, he just experiences discomfort, but the reason is a ruptured eardrum. 

Can stress cause ear bleeding?

Yes, there is a condition called hematohidrosis, which causes spontaneous bleeding from the ear, nose, or throat due to extreme physical or emotional stress. This usually causes painless bleeding through unbroken skin and is self-limiting in nature. 

How should you sleep with a bleeding ear?

If you have a bleeding ear due to eardrum rupture, you should sleep on your back or the opposite side, keeping the bleeding ear facing up. Keep using the drops prescribed by the doctor for fast recovery. 

Can loud noises cause ear bleeding?

Yes, exposure to loud noise for prolonged periods can cause damage to the membrane inside the ear and bleed as a result. Changes in air pressure at height or depths can also cause the ear drum to rupture and bleed. 

Can I use over-the-counter ear drops for ear bleeding? 

Over-the-counter ear drops can be used for ear bleeding after consultation with your doctor. The exact symptoms like ear discharge, drainage, and blood help your doctor diagnose the right issue, followed by the appropriate treatment. 

Does a busted eardrum bleed?

A ruptured eardrum can cause hearing loss and ear bleeding. Therefore, consult a doctor for the proper treatment to avoid the risk of developing complications. 

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

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  • Murakami, M., L. Fox, and Marcel P. Dijkers. “Ear acupuncture for immediate pain relief—a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Pain Medicine 18.3 (2017): 551-564.
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