Ear Discharge


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By Medicover Hospitals / 10 Mar 2021
Home | symptoms | ear-discharge
  • There are many causes of ear drainage. The most common type of ear drainage is cerumen, which keeps the ear clean and healthy. Blood, transparent fluid, and pus are other forms of drainage and discharge. These may show a ruptured eardrum or an ear infection.
  • Article Context:

    1. What is Ear Discharge?
    2. Causes
    3. Diagnosis
    4. Treatment
    5. When to visit a ENT doctor?
    6. Prevention
    7. FAQ's

    What is Ear Discharge?

  • Ear discharge, also known as otorrhea, is any fluid that comes out of the ear. Most of the time, your ears leak earwax. This is an oil that your body produces naturally. The job of earwax is to make sure that dust, bacteria, and other foreign bodies don't get into the ear. However, other conditions, such as a ruptured eardrum, can cause blood or other fluids to drain from the ear. This type of discharge is a sign that your ear has been injured or infected and requires medical attention.
  • Causes:

    Ear Wax:

  • Earwax is normal ear drainage and can be white, yellow, or brown. The ears produce earwax to keep the ear clean and healthy and to protect it from infection. If the wax is mixed with water, for example when someone is bathing or swimming, it can look like a runny discharge.
  • Transparent Liquid:

  • The clear fluid that comes out of the ear can be water, which can collect in the ear after swimming or bathing. People can gently dry their ears after getting wet by holding a hairdryer on low heat away from the ear or by using a towel. Taking time to dry your ears can help prevent an infection called swimmer's ear, in which water gets trapped in the ear. If a person notices clear liquid in their ears after a head injury, they should seek immediate medical attention.
  • Blood:

  • A minor injury or scratch to the ear canal can sometimes cause a small amount of blood to leak out of the ear. If a person has a ruptured eardrum, they may notice blood, pus, or clear fluid coming out of the ear. The eardrum is between the ear canal and the middle ear, and it can rupture if something creates a small hole in it.
  • The eardrum can rupture if:
    • An ear infection puts pressure on the ear
    • A loud noise occurs very close to the ear
    • A person inserts something too far into the ear
    • Someone experiences a sudden change in air pressure
    • An injury occurs, such as a blow to the ear
  • A ruptured eardrum can cause the following symptoms:
    • Earache, then sudden relief
    • Ringing in the ear
    • Hearing loss in the affected ear
  • If people notice any bleeding in the ear because of a head injury, they should seek medical help immediately.
  • Pus or Cloudy Liquid:

  • Pus or cloudy fluid coming out of the ear can be a sign of an ear infection in the ear canal or middle ear. The ear canal is the tube that connects the outer ear with the middle ear. A middle ear infection, which doctors may refer to as otitis media, can cause fluid to discharge from the ear. Ear infections can cause the eardrum to rupture in about 10 percent of cases. Drainage from the ear can also induce a ruptured eardrum. Ear infections can occur from a cold, the flu, or an ear injury. Some people are more likely than others to get frequent ear infections. People can also have the following signs if they have an ear infection:
    • An earache
    • Fever
    • Nausea


  • An otoscope, which is an illuminated microscope, is used by a doctor to inspect the ear and attempt to determine the root source of the drainage. To illustrate how the eardrum moves in response to pressure, they may also use a pneumatic otoscope that creates a puff of air. Doing this can show if there is a buildup of fluid behind the eardrum. A test called tympanometry will assist doctors in assessing the middle ear's health. To perform this test, a doctor will insert a probe into the ear and assess how the middle ear responds to different pressure levels. During an ear exam, doctors may also perform a hearing test or use a tuning fork to assess hearing levels.
  • Treatment:

  • Doctors often prescribe antibiotics for some types of infection, which people can take by mouth or as ear drops, depending on the location of the infection in the ear. To help ease an earache, people can use a warm compress on the ear or take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen. A ruptured eardrum often heals without treatment in a few weeks to 2 months. People can help the healing process and prevent infection by keeping the ear dry and protecting it from loud noises and physical shocks. If an eardrum does not heal on its own, surgery may be needed to place a patch of new skin over the hole. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat ear fluid. The use of a decongestant and an antihistamine in combination will help minimize congestion. If this treatment is not effective, the doctor may place an auditory tube through the middle ear to allow fluids to drain as usual.
  • When to visit a ENT doctor?

  • Call your healthcare provider if:
    • The discharge is white, yellow, clear, or bloody.
    • The discharge is the result of an injury.
    • The discharge has lasted more than 5 days.
    • There is severe pain.
    • The discharge is associated with other symptoms, such as fever or headache.
    • There is a hearing loss.
    • Redness or swelling is coming out of the ear canal.
    • Facial weakness or asymmetry.


  • While it may not be possible to prevent all causes of ear discharge, some tips can help protect your ear from damage, including:
    • Avoiding inserting foreign objects, such as cotton swabs, pens, or hairpins, into the ear
    • Dry your ears thoroughly after washing or swimming
    • Allow water to drain from the ears after bathing or swimming by tilting the head to each side
    • Take precautions to avoid pressure damage, such as when driving or flying
    • Wearing earplugs to muffle loud noises, such as heavy machinery or large speakers at concerts
    • Use over-the-counter ear drops to help clean your ears after swimming

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    • Apple cider vinegar with ear drops with warm water
    • Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with warm, not hot, water.
    • Apply 5 to 10 drops to each affected ear with a clean dropper bottle or baby syringe.
    • Cover your ear with a cotton ball or clean cloth and lie on your side so that the drops enter and settle in your ear.
  • Normal ear discharge includes water that comes out after getting out of a pool or shower and earwax. Earwax exists to protect your ear from dust and other foreign objects that can cause bacteria to build up.
  • Ear infections generally occur in your middle ear. They can be bacterial or viral. Infections are often painful due to inflammation and buildup. An ear infection can cause discharge and you may notice a bad smell.
  • Ear discharge (otorrhea) is drainage from the ear. The runoff, like pus, may be watery, bloody, or thick and whitish (purulent). Depending on the cause of the discharge, people may also have an earache, fever, itching, vertigo, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and/or hearing loss.
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