By Medicover Hospitals / 9 Feb 2021
Ear bleeding is drainage from the ear that contains blood. The discharge can be a combination of pus, wax, fluid, and blood. While other potential causes exist, a ruptured or perforated eardrum is the most common cause of bleeding from the ear.
- What is ear bleeding?
- When to visit a Doctor?
- Prevention and Home Remedies
What is ear bleeding?
If your ear is bleeding, it could be from something, from something stuck inside to a torn eardrum. You may have bleeding from the outer, middle, or inner part of your ear. It is a symptom of many injuries and conditions. Depending on the cause, you may also have other symptoms such as earache, fever, hearing loss, facial paralysis, dizziness, or ringing in the ear. A ruptured or perforated eardrum means there is a tear or defect in the delicate eardrum, also known as the tympanic membrane. When your eardrum ruptures, you may experience hearing loss.
There are some causes of bleeding in the ear. Some of these can be concerned. Various conditions or injuries can cause bleeding in the ear. There are specific signs in each of these, which will help the doctor identify the underlying cause.
Broken or torn eardrum:
A tear or puncture in the eardrum can also cause symptoms such as:
- pain or discomfort in the ear
- hearing loss
- ringing in the ear
- a spinning sensation, known as vertigo
- nausea or vomiting caused by vertigo
Ear infections are more common in children than in adults, although people of any age can be affected. In any part of the ear, such infections can happen. Middle and outer ear infections can cause bleeding from the ear beside the following signs:
- Discharge from the ear
- Changes in hearing
- Neck pain
The sensation of popping ears is common as altitude changes. As a result of sudden changes in pressure and height from events such as swimming or flying, barotrauma is a more serious injury to the ear. In addition to bleeding from the ear, the following may be signs of barotrauma:
Barotrauma signs begin almost immediately after a rapid change in pressure.
- Pressure in the ears
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in the ears
Ear cancer is rare and can occur in any part of the ear. Most cases of ear cancer result from skin cancer in the outer ear. About 5 percent of all skin cancers occur in the ear. However, people with chronic ear infections that persist or recur for 10 years or more are at increased risk of developing middle or inner ear cancer. If a person has middle or inner ear cancer, they may experience bleeding and the following symptoms:
- Hearing loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Partial facial paralysis
- Ringing in the ears
Object in ear:
A cotton swab, toy, or anything else small can get stuck in your ear and cause injury. Children are more likely to put something in their ears. Losing or pushing an object into the ear canal can perforate the eardrum. This can lead to bleeding from the ear and other symptoms such as:
- Fluid discharge from your ear
- Hearing loss
A minor injury or cut:
If you scratch your ear canal with a fingernail or use a cotton swab too hard (or insert it too much), it can cause your ear to bleed. Normally, this form of injury is not severe. To prevent infection, keep the cut clean.
Head injury or trauma:
More serious injuries or trauma to the head can lead to bleeding in the ears. These types of injuries are often because of an accident, fall, or sports injury. Where bleeding from the ears accompanies a head injury, the person may have a concussion.
Signs of a concussion can include:
Bleeding from the ears after a head injury can result from a skull fracture, severe trauma, or other serious injuries, so a person will need immediate medical attention.
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea and vomiting
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Dazed appearance
When you visit your doctor after noticing bleeding from the ear, your doctor will first perform a physical exam and inspect your ears, neck, head, and throat. They will ask for a complete medical history and details about when the bleeding started and what may have caused it.
If you recently had a fall or accident, your doctor can be sure that your bleeding results from an injury. Your doctor may order imaging tests or laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis or detect additional damage.
In severe cases, this is considered an emergency. Your doctor may send you to a hospital or emergency care center for further testing where healthcare providers can closely monitor you for changes in consciousness.
If the cause of the bleeding is not clear, your doctor may perform a more complete physical exam. Your doctor may use an otoscope to look inside your ear and look for possible damage, debris, or another cause. If that test doesn't show anything obvious, additional imaging tests like an X-ray or CT scan may be helpful. Laboratory tests may also be done to check for infection.
Treatments vary depending on the cause of the bleeding:
Ear infections: Your doctor will prescribe antibiotic ear drops or an oral antibiotic. If you or your child have recurring ear infections, your doctor may recommend tubes in the ears. During this outpatient surgery, doctors insert small artificial tubes into the ears to drain fluid and prevent ear infections.
Ruptured eardrum: A perforated or ruptured eardrum can cause bleeding in the ear. The eardrum usually heals in 8 to 10 weeks. If your eardrum does not heal on its own, your doctor may recommend a surgery called a tympanoplasty to repair your eardrum.
An object in the ear: If an object is stuck in your ear or your child's ear, you may remove it with a pair of tweezers. If you cannot remove it easily, ask a doctor to remove it. Do not poke in the ear (especially with a sharp instrument). It can damage the ear or push the object even deeper into the ear canal.
When to visit a Doctor?
Ear bleeding is often a reason for a doctor to seek medical attention. It may be harmful to certain causes of bleeding from the ears. When you first experience bleeding, call a physician or emergency medical clinic. This is particularly important if you have blood coming out of your ears and you have recently experienced a head injury. Other causes of ear bleeding, such as an ear infection, are less serious. However, not treating the infection or any other cause could lead to additional complications or problems. Make an appointment with your doctor regardless of what you suspect to be the cause.
You could have a life-threatening injury if your ears bleed after an accident or a blow to the head; go to the emergency department right away if you also have:
- Bleeding from the nose
- Vision problems
- Confusion or loss of consciousness
- Hearing loss
Prevention and Home Remedies:
- Tea tree oil eardrops are widely used but have the same limitations discussed regarding naturopathic ear drops.
- An oil containing ginger can be applied to the pinna. Proponents of this preparation urge avoiding pouring ginger oil into the ear canal.
- Warm compresses, wet a cloth with hot or lukewarm water. Place the cloth over your sore ear. The warmth from the warm compress will gently relieve pain and discomfort.
- The oil made from the flowers of the mullein plant has proven to be an effective pain reliever for ear infections.
- Chiropractic adjustments can help relieve tight muscles around the ear, allowing trapped fluid to drain.
- Acupuncture allows the release of the muscles, which allows the flow of blood and lymph to decrease inflammation, and can also help decrease infection.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Most causes of bleeding from the ears, such as ear infections or sudden changes in air pressure, are not serious. But others are, like head injuries or cancers that are very rare.
Unlike childhood ear infections, which are often mild and pass quickly, adult ear infections are usually signs of a more serious health problem.
Many infections will go away on their own, and the only treatment needed is pain medicine. Up to 80% of ear infections can clear up without antibiotics.
Rinse the ear gently, as a strong flow of water can damage the ear. Avoid putting objects in the ear, this causes the wax to go further into the ear. If this is a common issue, use ear drops to loosen up the wax.
American Family Physician - https://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/1001/p1253.html
Clinical Care Medicine - https://journals.lww.com/ccmjournal/Abstract/2000/05000/
Health Maza - https://healthmaza.com/coughing-up-blood-symptoms-reasons/