Ear injuries and trauma can cause damage to any part of the outer or inner ear. Accidents, loud noises, changes in air pressure, trauma from contact sports and foreign objects in the ear can cause injuries. Ear injuries can lead to dizziness, balance problems, hearing loss or changes in the ear’s appearance. Some ear injuries need surgical repair.
Injuries can happen to any part of the ear, including the inner ear, middle ear and external ear, which is the part of the ear you see and the ear canal. Trauma (such as a blow to the head) can cause damage in the middle ear (the space behind your eardrum) and inner ear (the series of canals and tissues on the inside of your head). An ear injury can result from loud noises, changes in air pressure or foreign objects in the ear.
Many different types of accidents can damage your ear canal, eardrum, cartilage and skin around your ear. The ear canal is a passageway of bone, skin and cartilage that leads from the exterior ear to the middle ear, where your eardrum sits. The eardrum is a thin membrane that protects your ear from bacteria and conducts sound.
These injuries can cause ear bleeding, ear pain, balance problems and hearing loss. A severe ear injury can be life-threatening. If you had a head injury and you have blood coming from your ear, seek medical help right away.
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Injuries can happen to the outer ear or any part of the middle and inner ear. Severe trauma can cause injuries to all parts of the ear. The most common types of injuries to the outer ear include:
Injuries to the middle ear and inner ear can cause severe damage and can affect hearing. The most common injuries to the inside of the ear include:
The symptoms of ear trauma vary depending on the cause. They include:
There are several causes of ear injury and trauma, including:
Your provider will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. They may use an otoscope (a special instrument with a light) or a microscope to look inside your ear. An otoscope allows your provider to check for foreign objects, infections or damage to your eardrum.
Depending on the type of injury, you may need an imaging study, such as an MRI, so your provider can see pictures of your inner ear. Your provider may also order a hearing test to check for hearing loss.
Treatment varies depending on the severity of the injury, what caused it and the area of your ear that’s damaged. Your provider may prescribe antibiotics to prevent or treat infection. Other treatments may include:
You may not be able to prevent all types of ear injuries. To lower your risk of ear trauma and hearing loss, you should care for your ears properly, including:
The outlook varies depending on the type and severity of the injury. Many ruptured eardrums and minor ear injuries heal without treatment. In severe cases, ear and head trauma can lead to serious problems, including:
See your provider right away if you or your child had a head injury, as well as:
These are serious symptoms that may be signs of a life-threatening condition. Even if the head injury seemed minor, you should get medical help. Call your provider, dial 911 or go to the emergency room.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Ear injuries can range from minor to life-threatening. If you or your child has severe ear pain, bleeding ears, dizziness or hearing loss, get help right away. These are signs of a serious medical condition, especially after a blow to the head, fall or other accident. To prevent an ear injury, never put anything in your ears. Wear protective headgear during contact sports. Avoid listening to music at high volumes, and wear ear protection if you’re exposed to loud noises.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/14/2021.
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