Bleeding From Ear: Causes

By McBratney, Susan PhD

What causes bleeding from the ear?

Bleeding from the ear is usually due to a ruptured or perforated eardrum caused by a middle ear infection (otitis media). However, bleeding from the ear can also be caused by trauma to the head or the ear itself and other serious conditions. Be sure to tell your doctor about any other symptoms you are experiencing in order to address all possible causes.

Causes of a ruptured eardrum

Conditions that can lead to a ruptured eardrum include:

  • Abrupt changes in altitude (barotrauma)

  • Ear infection

  • Foreign object piercing the eardrum

  • Very loud noise

Serious or life-threatening causes of bleeding from the ear

In some cases, bleeding from the ear may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Cancer of the ear canal or middle ear

  • Head trauma, such as a blow to the head

  • Trauma to the ear canal or middle ear, such as from a hard slap or a foreign object

What are the potential complications of bleeding from the ear?

The complications of bleeding from the ear are related to the underlying cause. A ruptured eardrum is a cause for concern because it is a natural barrier to germs entering the middle and inner ear. Bleeding from the ear due to a blow to the head is cause for concern because a life-threatening complication from a blow to the head is permanent brain damage.

Over time, a ruptured eardrum can lead to potentially serious complications including:

  • Ear infection

  • Mastoiditis (spread of infection to the bone behind the ear)

  • Permanent hearing loss


What is bleeding from the ear?

Bleeding from the ear is ear drainage that contains blood. The discharge may be a combination of pus, wax, fluid and blood. Although there are other possible causes, the most common cause of bleeding from the ear is a ruptured or perforated eardrum.

... Read more about bleeding from earintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with bleeding from the ear?

Depending on the underlying cause, you may experience symptoms in addition to bloody discharge from the ear including:

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 31, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

Your Guide to Ear Infections

This Article is Filed Under: Ear Infections, Ear, Nose and Throat

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