Ear Bleeding


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.

Most of the time, healthcare providers 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 condition.

Common additional symptoms

Depending on the cause of ear bleeding, you may also have other symptoms, such as:

Possible Causes

Why is my ear bleeding?

You can develop bleeding ears due to:

  • A minor injury or cut. If you scratch your ear canal with a fingernail or insert a cotton swab 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. Your eardrum is a membrane that protects your 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.
  • Ear trauma. An accident or blow to your 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 your 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.
  • 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

How is ear bleeding treated?

Treatment for a bleeding ear depends on the underlying cause. Your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Antibiotics.
  • Ear tubes (tympanostomy).
  • Tympanoplasty.
  • Object removal.

If your healthcare provider suspects ear cancer, they’ll refer you to an oncologist for further testing and treatment. Common ear cancer treatments include surgery and radiation therapy.


If you have ear bleeding due to an infection, then your healthcare provider may prescribe oral antibiotics or antibiotic ear drops. It’s important to take all medication exactly as directed.

Ear tubes

If you get ear infections often, your provider may recommend ear tubes. During this procedure, a surgeon will place tiny, hollow tubes into your eardrum. These tubes allow air into your middle ear so that any fluid trapped behind your eardrum can drain out.


Sometimes recurrent (repeat) ear infections can cause your eardrum to rupture (tear). Ruptured eardrum symptoms include hearing loss and ear bleeding.

In many cases, a ruptured eardrum heals on its own. But if it doesn’t, you may need tympanoplasty. During this procedure, a surgeon repairs any holes or tears in your eardrum.

Object removal

Ear bleeding can also result from having a strange object stuck in your ear. If this happens, your healthcare provider will need to remove it right away. Most of the time, providers can remove these objects during an office visit. But in severe cases, you may need a referral to an otolaryngologist (ENT).

What are the possible complications or risks of not treating ear bleeding?

Specific complications depend on the condition that’s causing ear bleeding. Notable risks of untreated ear bleeding include:

  • Ear infections.
  • Tinnitus (ringing in your ears).
  • Mastoiditis (an infection of your mastoid bone, located behind your ear).
  • Hearing loss (temporary or permanent).
  • Headaches.
  • Vertigo.
  • Balance issues.
  • Dislocation of your ossicles (three tiny bones in your middle ear).
  • Brain damage.

If you have bleeding ears following trauma — such as a car accident or sports injury — call 911 or head to your nearest emergency room.

Can I prevent ear bleeding?

It’s not always possible to prevent bleeding from your ears because it often occurs following unforeseen events (like a car accident).

However, there are ways to reduce your risk of health conditions related to ear bleeding.

To reduce your risk of ear infections:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke.
  • Get age-appropriate vaccinations. (Vaccines help prevent viral and bacterial infections.)

To reduce your risk of a ruptured eardrum:

  • Treat ear infections promptly.
  • Wear ear protection when exposed to loud noises.
  • Wear airplane earplugs when you fly to reduce pressure buildup.
  • Don’t stick cotton swabs, hairpins or other objects into your ear canal.

What can I do at home to ease my symptoms?

A healthcare provider can recommend appropriate treatment for bleeding ears. But there are things you can do at home to ease your discomfort during recovery:

  • Place a warm washcloth over your ear.
  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Wear earplugs to keep water and debris out while your ears heal.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

If your ear is bleeding, you should see your healthcare provider for an exam. It’s important to find the cause of the bleeding so your provider can treat you properly.

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:

Frequently Asked Questions

My ear is bleeding from a cotton swab. Is this normal?

If you stick a cotton swab too far into your ear canal, it can puncture your eardrum, causing bleeding and hearing loss. There’s really no need to insert anything into your ear canals because your ears are self-cleaning.

To keep your ears healthy, simply wash your outer ear with a washcloth. Ask your healthcare provider about additional ear care tips.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Ear bleeding can occur as a result of infections, trauma and — in rare cases — ear cancer. In most instances, healthcare providers can treat common conditions that cause ear bleeding like infections or a ruptured eardrum. Bleeding from your ears is more serious if you’ve recently sustained a head injury. No matter what the reason, you should see your healthcare provider right away if you have bleeding ears. They can determine what caused the issue and recommend appropriate treatment.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/20/2023.


  • American Speech Language Hearing Association. Ear Infections (Otitis Media). (https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Otitis-Media/#signs) Accessed 3/20/2023.
  • Medina-Blasini Y, Sharman T. Otitis Externa. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32310515/) 2022 Aug 1. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. Accessed 3/20/2023.
  • Merck Manual, Consumer Version. Eardrum Perforation. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/ear,-nose,-and-throat-disorders/middle-ear-disorders/eardrum-perforation) Accessed 3/20/2023.
  • Tatcheva M, Struffert T, Sauer T, Langer C. Rezidivierende Blutungen aus dem äußeren Ohr [Recurrent bleeding of the externa ear]. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34873630/) HNO. 2022 Nov;70(11):842-844. German. Accessed 3/20/2023.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy