What Causes the Ear to Bleed?

Photo of a doctor checking a patient's ear with an otoscopeIf your ear begins to bleed, it can be alarming. Although it’s usually not a sign of something serious, you should still seek medical attention to avoid complications. Below we review five possible causes of a bleeding ear.

Ruptured Eardrum

One of the signs of a torn or punctured eardrum is blood coming from the ear, in addition to:

  • Pain or discomfort in the ears.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
  • Vertigo (spinning sensation).
  • Nausea/vomiting.

A ruptured eardrum may be caused by a foreign object in the ear or by barotrauma, which occurs due to rapid changes in air pressure (like when taking off in an airplane).

Ear Infection

Ear infections also have the potential of causing blood to come from the ear. Ear infections are the result of inflammation in the ears, usually caused by a cold or allergies. This inflammation prevents fluid from draining, so it begins to grow bacteria.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain or pressure in the ears.
  • Balance problems.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Fever.
  • In severe cases, pus or bloody drainage.

Scratch or Pimple in the Ear Canal

Just like anywhere else on your body, you can get a pimple or accidentally scratch yourself inside your ear canal. If the skin breaks in your ear canal, it can cause blood to drain out of your ears.

Head Trauma

If you fall or hit your head, it can cause a brain injury that leads to bleeding from your ears. If you notice blood coming from your ears after an accident that involves head trauma, seek medical help right away, as it may be a sign of bleeding around the brain.

Cancer in the Ear Canal

While extremely rare, it is possible that blood coming from the ear canal could be due to cancer. Additional symptoms include:

  • Pain or pressure in the ear.
  • Headaches.
  • Facial pain or numbness.
  • Blurred vision.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Unless you can identify that a scab or pimple is to blame for your bleeding ear, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention right away, especially if you’ve just experienced head trauma. While other causes are less worrisome, like an ear infection or ruptured eardrum, it’s still important to see a doctor so that the condition doesn’t worsen.

For more information about what to do if your ear is bleeding or to schedule an appointment with an ear expert, call the PIH Health House Ear Clinic today.

Los Angeles: 213.483.9930
Orange: 714.516.9570


This information is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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