What is ear bleeding?
Ear bleeding is any sign of blood in your ear, or coming from your ear. It’s a symptom of many injuries and conditions. Depending on the cause, you may also have other symptoms such as ear pain, fever, hearing loss, facial paralysis, dizziness or ringing in your ear.
Most of the time, doctors can treat ear infections and other medical conditions that cause ear bleeding. Bleeding from your ears typically won’t lead to complications, but the underlying causes for the bleeding can lead to long-term issues. If you’ve recently hit your head and your ears are bleeding, you should call 911 or go to the emergency room right away. Ear bleeding after a head injury can indicate a potentially fatal problem.
What causes ear bleeding?
Ears can bleed because of:
- A minor injury or cut: If you scratch your ear canal with a fingernail or use a cotton swab too forcefully (or insert it too far), you can cause your ear to bleed. This type of injury isn’t usually serious. Keep the cut clean to avoid infection.
- Ruptured eardrum: The eardrum is a membrane that protects the middle ear from bacteria. When this membrane tears, it can bleed. Loud noises, severe ear infections and trauma can all cause a perforated or ruptured eardrum. Eardrums can also rupture from a sudden change in air pressure (barotrauma) when flying on an airplane or scuba diving.
- Trauma: An accident or blow to the head can cause internal bleeding and ear trauma. If you have this life-threatening injury, you should get medical help right away.
- Severe ear infection: Middle ear infections can cause pain, temporary hearing loss and fluid from the ear. Bleeding is a common ear infection symptom. Eardrums can rupture as a result of an ear infection because the infection can cause fluid or pus to build up in your ear.
- Foreign objects in the ear: Children who insert small objects into their ears can experience pain and bleeding.
- Ear cancer: Though very rare, ear cancer can cause bleeding, numbness and hearing loss.
Care and Treatment
What are the treatments for ear bleeding?
Treatments vary depending on the cause of the bleeding:
- Ear infections: Your doctor will prescribe antibiotic ear drops or an oral antibiotic (taken by mouth). If you or your child have recurring ear infections, your doctor may recommend ear tubes. During this outpatient surgery, doctors insert tiny artificial tubes (about the size of a grain of rice) into the ears to drain the fluid and prevent ear infections.
- Ruptured eardrum: A perforated or ruptured eardrum can cause ear bleeding. The eardrum usually heals within 8 to 10 weeks. If your eardrum doesn’t heal on its own, your doctor may recommend surgery called a tympanoplasty to repair your eardrum.
- Object in the ear: If an object is stuck in your ear or your child’s ear, you may be able to remove it with a pair of tweezers. If you can’t remove it easily, you should have a doctor remove it. Don’t poke around in the ear (especially with a sharp instrument). You may damage the ear or push the object even deeper into the ear canal.
When to Call the Doctor
When should I call the doctor about ear bleeding?
If your ear is bleeding, you should see your doctor for an exam. It’s important to find the cause of the bleeding so your doctor can treat you.
If your ears bleed after an accident or blow to the head, you may have a life-threatening injury. Call 911 or go to the emergency room right away if you also have:
- Bleeding from the nose.
- Problems with vision.
- Confusion or loss of consciousness.
- Hearing loss.
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