Facts about blood in the ear

Dried blood, little amount of blood inside the ear wax & blood clots

About possible causes, risks & treatment options of ear bleeding

In this article you will learn everything about the possible causes of a bleeding ear, which complications can accompany it and how to treat the bleeding in the ear depending on the cause. If you have further questions on this topic, you can get consultation at the Amplifon centre nearest to you. If you also notice hearing loss, you can have your hearing tested without obligation.

When the ear is bleeding

If blood comes out of the ear, this is not a conventional ear discharge such as a weeping ear. A bleeding ear can, but does not have to be associated with pain. It can occur when a crust of blood comes off in the ear, then sudden ear bleeding occurs where some blood may also flow out of the ear canal. Oftentimes, there is also blood in the earwax when the crust of blood mixes with it. It can be startling when blood comes out of the ear and there is a feeling of pressure occuring at the same time. The ears are particularly sensitive to pressure because the skin in the ear canal is thin, well supplied with blood and tender. 

A bloody ear can look particularly bad, just like you see it in the movies. However, the latter cases are rare and linked to recognizable external events. Extremely severe pain occurs when the eardrum is injured. This can be triggered, for example, by a blow to the ear, a head injury, a bang trauma or an explosion trauma.

Distinction to blood noise in the ear

If you hear blood rushing in your ear, it could also be tinnitus. However, in the case of extreme stress, there can also be talk of a so-called sudden hearing loss or, in the worst case, incoming hearing loss. Tinnitus can also become a permanent ringing in the ears and is often perceived as very distressing.

Possible causes – Why is my ear bleeding?

A minor sore is one of the most common causes of ear bleeding, most commonly caused by cleaning the ears with objects such as cotton swabs. Less common are eardrum ruptures or severe head injuries from blunt force trauma or extreme pressure, such as a bang or an explosion. Water pressure or a violent impact on a water surface, such as high diving, can also leads to such injuries.

When the ear is bleeding after cleaning

If a cotton swab penetrates too deeply into the ear when cleaning your ears, it can already lead to a small injury with blood. It is due to the fact that the thin skin deep in the ear canal is heavily stressed after frequent use of cotton swabs. It lies directly on the bone with no cartilage or layers of tissue in between. Thus, it is hardly yielding or stretchable.

Small tears in the skin quickly form, which can bleed profusely due to the good blood circulation in the ears and only heal very slowly, since the thin skin regenerates very slowly due to the non-existent tissue layer under the skin. It is therefore important to remove the earwax carefully and only at the ear outlet so that the skin is not damaged. Learn all there is to know about how to clean your ears properly with the help of our hearing aid specialists and ENT doctors to prevent ear bleeding. 

Blood in ear from ear infection

In the case of purulent middle ear infections, blood often collects in the ear after a tympanostomy tube operation. It is a surgical incision made by a doctor on the eardrum to drain pus in the middle ear through the ear canal. The wound secretion and blood then mix with each other. In the case of a middle ear infection, this is called a bloody discharge.

Minor eardrum injuries

If the eardrum bursts, little or no blood flows out of the ear. The eardrum lies well protected deep at the end of the auditory canal behind several auditory canal convolutions of different strengths. Although it is a thin membrane, it is held in place by internal tissue fibers and contains few blood vessels. This means that there is only minimal bleeding when the eardrum is injured. An eardrum is also only about the size of a pinhead, which is why it is quite robust and minor injuries usually heal relatively quickly. 

After a fall or hitting the head

If blood flows from the ear after a violent fall after a severe head injury, this is alarming. Severe head should always be examined by a doctor, no matter whether you are young or old, as you may be suffering from concussions or even a fracture to the base of the skull. However, a corresponding abrasion on or near the ear can also be the cause of blood flow.

High blood pressure

In hypertensive patients with acutely high blood pressure, they often perceive the blood flowing in the vessels of the ear as noise Ears contain many blood vessels, which is why increased blood pressure can actually become audible noise due to the sensitive sensors of the hearing organ.

When a child's (baby's) ear is bleeding

If you see blood in a child's ear, the cause may be an otitis media. Children often touch their ears. Other indications are severe exhaustion and fever in children.

The blood then comes from small injuries on the eardrum, which causes small, bloody, suppurating blisters. The wound secretion and pus then drain through these small openings, which means that the pain and discomfort abruptly subside.

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Treatment – what to do if your ear is bleeding?

When should I see a doctor?

A doctor should be consulted in the following cases:

  • Violent head trauma due to a fall
  • Severe pain in the ear area
  • Persistent, heavy bleeding over a short period of time or in the case of light bleeding that does not stop for more than two days 
  • Weeping ears with odorous wound secretion
  • drowsiness, dizziness 
  • Numbness and loud ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

Diagnosis

The doctor treating you will take the ear bleeding as a serious symptom and then draw up a detailed anamnesis. First, family and personal pre-existing conditions are queried, as well as other currently acute symptoms. In the case of severe ear bleeding, questions are also asked about the effects of violence from an accident or from third parties.

Next, the ear canal is examined with an otoscope. Inflammation or a damaged eardrum can thus already be detected. However, if the ear bleeds are caused by an accident, a CT scan of the skull is performed to diagnose possible skull fractures.

Potential consequences of untreated ear bleeding

Various complications can occur if the cause of the ear bleed is not treated. The complication that can occur depends on the diagnosis and the symptoms. Below, you will find an overview on possible consequences of each bloody ear cause.

Bone damaged due to a delayed ear infection

An untreated delayed middle ear infection can cause life-threatening bone suppuration, which causes bone damage on the skull and jaw.

Deafness due to a head trauma

Complete deafness can be a complication of head trauma, if a skull fracture occurs in the ear and the organ's inner ear fluid leaks out. A head trauma that causes blood to flow from the ear can indicate an increased risk of a stroke.

Ruptured eardrum

A damaged or ruptured eardrum can be irreversible if it is not working properly, no longer vibrating properly or no longer healing, leaving holes in the eardrum. Water can penetrate through a hole in the eardrum and lead to more serious and difficult to treat middle ear infections. 

Chronic inflammation of the ear canal

Wounds in the auditory canal area can swell, which in the worst case can lead to serious chronic inflammation of the auditory canal.

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