Ear Bleeding: 6 Common Causes & What to Do

Ear bleeding can occur with a ruptured eardrum, ear infection, pressure-related trauma, head injury or a lodged foreign body. 

Bleeding can be seen in the outer or inner part of the ear, depending on the cause. It can emerge with other symptoms, such as dizziness, hearing loss or fever.

If you notice blood in your ear, you should see your family doctor or an ENT specialist for assessment. The doctor can identify the underlying cause of bleeding and start treatment to prevent further complications.

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Causes of ear bleeding

The main causes of bleeding from the ears include: 

1.  Ruptured eardrum

A ruptured eardrum can cause symptoms like bleeding, pain, hearing loss, ringing and vertigo. It can also emerge with nausea and vomiting. 

What to do: Generally, eardrum ruptures resolve on their own within a few weeks. During this time, you should protect the ear with cotton, especially if there is a risk for contact with water. The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

2. Middle ear infection

A middle ear infection (or otitis media) is characterized by swelling within the ear. It can happen due to an infection, and causes symptoms like pressure or pain within the ear, fever, balance problems and discharge.

What to do: Treatment depends on what is causing the inflammation, but generally it can be treated with analgesics or anti-inflammatories. When necessary, the doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic.

3. Barotrauma

Barotrauma is associated with abrupt changes to pressure within the ear canal and inner ear. This can occur with fluctuations in altitude, and can significantly injure the eardrum. 

What to do: Generally, treatment consists of analgesic medications, but in more severe cases, surgical repair may be necessary. 

4. Foreign body in the ear

Bleeding from the ear can happen when objects become stuck in the ear. This is common in younger children, and can be dangerous if not caught in time. 

What to do: You should avoid leaving small objects within the reach of young children. If the object becomes suck in the ear, the child should be urgently assessed for removal with medical equipment. 

5. Head injury

In some cases, a head injury from a fall or accident can cause bleeding from the ear. This can be a sign of bleeding around the brain. 

What to do: In these cases, you should proceed immediately to a hospital for imaging tests, so that the doctor can assess for the risk of a traumatic brain injury. 

6. Ear cancer 

Although this is a rare situation, ear cancer can cause bleeding from the ear. This symptom especially happens with squamous cell carcinoma in the outer ear or basal cell carcinoma. Other symptoms may include ear pain, discharge, and lymph node swelling. 

These types of cancer can start to grow and develop due to prolonged sun exposure or chronic ear infections that are inadequately treated or resistant to antibiotics. 

What to do: If you notice discharge, bleeding and intense pain in the ear, you should see an ENT specialist for a thorough ear assessment. The doctor may order testing to rule out or confirm a cancer diagnosis, and start treatment as necessary.