It’s scary to find blood gushing out of places where it is least likely to happen, especially if they’re as sensitive as your ears. However, if it still happens to you, don’t fret. And please don’t go from why is my ear bleeding to ‘oh my god, I may have ear cancer’ based on some posts you may read on the internet. Ear cancer is the least likely cause of this (only 300 cases each year).
The reason can be as common as a scratch, easily treatable infection, or quick healing injuries to the ear drum. So that said, let’s dive right into what may cause your ear to bleed:
Why is My Ear Bleeding? Let’s Look At 13 Likely Causes and Their Symptoms
6 Ear Bleeding Causes Due to Injuries
1. Trauma to the head
Trauma to the head can have several consequences, including ear bleeding. This is due to the fact that trauma causes internal bleeding, which can escape from the ear canal.
- Sensitivity to light
- Memory complaints
2. Ruptured or torn eardrum
Eardrum injuries can be quite serious, particularly if they’re ruptured. This happens when the eardrum is damaged, either deliberately or unintentionally.
When this happens, the membrane that protects the middle ear from bacteria starts to bleed and discharge fluid.
- Ear pain or discomfort
- Ringing in ear
- Loss of hearing
- Vertigo (spinning sensation)
- Vomiting or nausea
3. Traumatic brain injury
TBI, or traumatic brain injury, is a head trauma that causes damage to the brain. This can result from a strong blow to the head resulting from something like an accident, fall, jolt, gunshot wound, etc. This can cause ear bleeding.
- Consciousness loss
- Persistent or worsening headaches
- Repeated nausea or vomiting
- Seizures or convulsions
- Dilation of both or one eye’s pupils
4. A minor injury or cut:
Ear bleeding is a common complaint due to minor cuts or injuries. This occurs when the outer ear canal gets scratched or forcefully cleaned with a cotton swab.
- Pus discharge
- Purple mark (in case its a bruise)
Barotrauma is the medical term for pressure injuries of the ear canal. It can occur during changes in air pressure in and outside the ear.
This typically happens when you’re coming down from high altitudes, such as in scuba diving, airplane landing, bungee jumping, or any other situation that puts air pressure on the ear.
- Ear ringing
- Ear pressure or pain
6. Superficial skin injuries
Superficial ear bleeding is a common problem that can be treated easily with the help of ice and compression. If you just scratched the outer layer of your ear or have a pimple popped inside, it may lead to bleeding. To determine if this is the cause, ask someone to grab a torch and see if there is any blood inside your ear canal.
- Pain or discomfort
- Red skin or visible cut
7 Ear Bleeding Causes Due to Medical Conditions
1. Ear infection
Ear infections are the most common type of infection, affecting everyone at some point in their lives. They can cause ear bleeding and even hearing loss if not treated properly.
The most common type of ear infection includes middle ear infections (otitis media). Kids are particularly prone to them as they often have weaker immune systems.
Adults can also have this infection, but usually less frequently. Ear canal infections can lead to drainage from the eardrum or tympanic membrane, causing bleeding.
- Pain or pressure in the ear
- Difficulty balancing yourself
- Sleeping difficulty
2. Foreign object in the ear
If you are experiencing ear bleeding from the ear canal and you think that a foreign object may be obstructing your canal, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
Objects such as small insects, pieces of wood splinters, etc., can easily get stuck in the ear canal and cause bleeding.
If this situation is not resolved quickly by removing the foreign object using proper techniques, surgery may be required to obliterate it.
- Fluid discharge from the ear
- Hearing loss
- Pain and/or pressure
3. Ear cancer
Ear cancer is a cancer of the outer ear canal that can also cause bleeding from the ear. It’s one of the rarest cancers, so don’t jump to conclusions.
There are only 300 cases of ear cancer reported per year, and most people who get it are middle-aged or older people.
And although it’s very unlikely that you will develop this form of cancer, always ensure that an ENT specialist checks your ears just in case!
- Altered or blurred vision
- Ear pain or pressure
- Numbness or pain in the face
4. Earwax blockage
There’s a good chance that you’ve experienced ear wax buildup at some point in your life. In fact, it’s a good thing that ear produces the wax to protect the eardrum.
However, if the wax buildup becomes too severe, it can cause ear bleeding due to the pressure and squeeze on the eardrum.
This doesn’t really have to do with hygiene because the ear can sometimes produce too much wax.
- A fullness feeling in the ear
- Ringing or noises
5. Swimmer’s ear
Also known as Otitis Externa, Swimmer’s ear can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungus found in water. It most often affects people who swim regularly and expose their ears to water or other liquids.
The infection enters the ear through the water left inside after swimming. Swimmer’s ear is usually painless at first, but it can cause the ear to bleed.
- Irritation or itching inside or around the ear
- Swelling or redness outside the ear and ear canal
- Scaly skin around and inside the ear canal, which may also peel of
- Pressure inside the ear
6. Cholesteatoma (a non-cancerous growth in the ear)
If you are experiencing ear pain, bleeding, or hearing loss, it’s important to get checked out by a doctor. Cholesteatoma (a non-cancerous growth in the ear) can cause all of these symptoms and may require treatment.
In most cases, Cholesteatoma is caused by an infection or can be present from birth. The size, location, and type of growth will help decide the treatment required.
- Persistent or recurring discharge that may have a smell
- Gradual hearing loss
- Typically happens in one ear
Mastoiditis is the mastoid bone infection found behind the ear. This infection can also lead to bleeding from the ear.
- Swelling behind your ear
- Pain, tenderness, or redness behind the ear
- May face hearing loss in the ear
Treatment options For Ear Bleeding
Ear bleeding can be an unpleasant experience; in some cases, it can indicate a more serious health problem.
If you’re experiencing ear bleeding, you must consult your doctor as soon as possible. That said, some of the most common treatment options include:
Most ear bleeds should heal on their own (if non-serious), and you may have to just be precautions and do the following:
- Keep your ear clean and dry, which means not going for a swim
- Do not forcefully blow your nose, as this can cause pressure behind your ears
- Do not place anything in the ear, especially q-tips, as this can open closing wounds in the ear canal and eardrum
If, depending on your symptoms, your condition is serious or the bleeding is persistent after 1-2 days, then see a doctor. He/she may recommend one of the following treatments:
- Antibiotics to treat ear infection
- A surgical procedure in case there’s something stuck inside
- Laser therapy if there’s a blood vessel issue
Make sure to visit the doctor even if you have ear bleeding without symptoms associated with the serious conditions mentioned above or if you have a history of ear infections. There’s nothing wrong with being prudent when it comes to health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I take over-the-counter medications to help me stop my ears from bleeding?
No. OTC medication can reduce the pain or temporarily stop the bleeding. However, you still must see a doctor and find out what’s causing the bleeding so you can have it treated.
How do I know if I ruptured my eardrum?
You will experience symptoms like sudden hearing loss, pain in your ear, itching, fluid leaking, fever, and/or ringing or buzzing inside the affected ear.
Why is my earwax red?
Red earwax or having some redness means blood is in it. A number of situations can lead to this, including bug bite, injury, or scratch on the ear canal.
Why is my ear bleeding when I clean it with Q tips?
You may have a pimple or existing cut inside the ear that is punctured or aggravated while you are cleaning it with a q-tip. Scratching your eardrum using your finger can also lead to bleeding.
Can ear wax removal cause a bleed?
Although not a huge possibility, this can happen. You may leave a small scratch inside the ear canal, which may ooze out 1-2 drops of blood. However, that’s typically about it, as the scratched area should start healing afterward.
You can never be too careful when it comes to sensitive areas like ears. So visit the doctor if you have ear bleeding, even without any other symptoms.
A thorough examination can rule out or discover serious medical conditions that may be causing the bleeding so you can get the appropriate and timely treatment.