Bleeding from ears: causes and how to sop it

A man holding a cotton bud covered in blood

Experiencing blood in the ear, also known as otorrhagia, can be a cause for concern, prompting the need to delve into its various causes and how to address each scenario. This article aims to explore the diverse reasons behind ear bleeding, ensuring a comprehensive understanding for those seeking information.

Blood from ear: causes

Ear bleeding inside the ear can stem from various factors, with some being more severe than others. Otorrhagia typically arises from common causes such as:

1. Otitis

The occurrence of blood in the ear due to otitis is a common concern for individuals grappling with this painful ear infection. Otitis, whether in its middle form (otitis media) or external form (otitis externa), can result in ear bleeding as one of its symptoms.

In otitis media, an infection in the middle ear can lead to the accumulation of pus and fluid behind the eardrum. As this buildup exerts pressure on the eardrum, it can cause intense pain and, in certain instances, bleeding from the ear. Significantly, bleeding often signals that the infection has advanced, necessitating prompt medical attention.

In the case of otitis externa, also referred to as "swimmer's ear," the infection impacts the ear canal and the overlying skin. This infection can trigger itching, redness, swelling, and, at times, bleeding from the ear due to irritation and scratching. Otitis externa is frequently accompanied by pain and may demand medical intervention to alleviate symptoms and avert potential complications.

For both types of otitis externa, appropriate treatment involves the prescription of antibiotics to combat the infection, along with analgesics to alleviate pain. Moreover, it is imperative for a healthcare professional to examine the ear, assessing the infection's severity and determining the suitable course of treatment.

2. Ear cleaning using cotton buds

Ear bleeding after cleaning with a Q-tip or cotton bud may indicate improper practices, such as using them incorrectly, leading to potential ear issues and the need for cautious cleaning methods. This is often caused by the presence of a small sore or superficial wound inside the ear canal, a result of the frequent and incorrect use of these tools, which is a common practice in many ear cleaning routines.

The continuous rubbing of the cotton bud against the delicate walls of the ear canal can result in surface tearing or, in severe cases, lead to the rupture or perforation of the eardrum. In less severe instances, individuals may not experience pain but might observe blood on the cotton swab or a combination of blood with earwax. More serious cases may involve ear pain and hearing difficulties, often accompanied by temporary hearing loss.

Young woman expressing pain
3. Foreign objects in ear

Eardrum perforation can occur due to the insertion of foreign objects into the ear canal, which can tear the tympanic membrane. This is particularly common in children, who are more prone to placing small objects like toys in their ears. When this happens, additional symptoms may include ear pain and temporary hearing loss.

Less frequent cases for ear bleeding

Fungal ear infection (otomycosis)

Fungal infections in the ear canal can result in blood coming out of ear, often requiring antifungal treatments.


Cuts or scrapes in the outer ear can cause bleeding, with appropriate treatment dependent on the severity of the injury.

Head injuries

Head injuries can damage the ear, leading to bleeding. Seeking medical attention for head injuries is crucial.

Skin irritation

Conditions like eczema in the ear canal can cause bleeding, usually managed with specific medications.

Barotrauma: air or water in ear

Barotrauma, resulting from abrupt alterations in atmospheric pressure during activities like high diving, scuba diving, or air travel, may induce barotraumatic otitis. This condition can result in ear bleeding, accompanied by symptoms such as ear pain, dizziness, and tinnitus.

High blood pressure

Sudden spikes in blood pressure can lead to ear bleeding, necessitating evaluation by a healthcare professional.


Although rare, certain cancers like squamous cell carcinoma can cause bleeding in the ear. Associated symptoms encompass headaches, earaches, facial pain, and changes in vision. If you observe these symptoms, it is crucial to promptly consult with your doctor or seek the expertise of an oncologist.

A perforated eardrum

A ruptured eardrum can cause bleeding and hearing loss, requiring immediate medical attention.
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Types of blood in the ear

  • Bloody pus in the ear: Associated with ear infections, this type indicates an ongoing infection requiring medical treatment.
  • Blood plug in the ear: Blood clots in the ear canal, caused by injury or irritation, can partially or completely block the ear.
  • Bloody earwax in the ear: Blood in ear wax indicates injury to the ear canal or a perforated eardrum, necessitating medical evaluation.
  • Bloody fluid in the ear: It may indicate internal injury or a progressed infection, requiring professional evaluation.
  • Dried blood in ear: It may suggest a past injury, recent trauma, or a healed ear canal wound. While the dried blood itself might not be an urgent concern, it's essential to investigate the underlying cause.

Earrings and piercing bleeding

The skin surrounding a new piercing may exhibit temporary swelling, redness, and tenderness, accompanied by slight bleeding. To minimize the risk of bleeding and infection, it's vital to choose a skilled and experienced piercer, maintain a sterile environment, and adhere to recommended aftercare practices. If an infected ear piercing keeps bleeding persists or signs of prolonged infection, such as persistent swelling, enduring redness, or excessive bleeding beyond the initial days, arise, seeking advice from a medical professional is crucial. Timely intervention can help prevent potential complications, emphasizing the importance of good hygiene and following care instructions for an optimal ear piercing experience.


Your initial point of contact for ear bleeding concerns is your doctor. Following a thorough examination of your medical history, they will conduct an otoscopy—a procedure involving the insertion of a tool into the ear to assess potential inflammation or eardrum lesions.

Based on the diagnosis, the doctor may recommend medication or refer you to a specialist for more extensive testing. It's important to mention that if the bleeding results from head trauma, a CT scan or MRI may be prescribed to detect any skull fractures.

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Blood in ear in adults

In adults, bleeding in the ear can stem from various causes, ranging from minor injuries to serious conditions like infections or cancer, emphasizing the need for consultation with a doctor.

Blood in ear in children

A child indicating his ear with the finger

In children and infants, blood in the ear may be a concern for parents, with common causes including otitis, ear pain, unintentional manipulation, or injury.

When a child's ear exhibits signs of bleeding, it may be attributed to otitis media, commonly known as a middle ear infection. Additional indicators of otitis media involve pronounced fatigue and elevated body temperature. In the case of a middle ear infection, the middle ear tends to accumulate fluid or pus. Fortunately, middle ear infections often resolve spontaneously over time.

Seeking medical attention is crucial for a proper diagnosis.

Bleeding ear during pregnancy

Pregnant woman expressing headache and earache

Bleeding from the ear during pregnancy is an unusual and concerning occurrence that requires prompt medical attention.

Ear bleeding could be a result of various factors, such as infections, trauma, or changes in blood flow. Infections might lead to inflammation and subsequent bleeding, emphasizing the importance of maintaining good ear hygiene. Trauma or injury to the ear, possibly due to accidental impacts or improper cleaning, could also contribute to bleeding. Additionally, hormonal changes during pregnancy might affect blood vessels, making them more susceptible to bleeding. Any instance of ear bleeding should be thoroughly examined by a healthcare professional to determine the precise cause and ensure the well-being of both the expectant mother and the baby.

Hearing blood pumping in one ear: Tinnitus

Young man with ear pain

If you hear blood pumping in one ear, it is unrelated to ear bleeding; it is likely caused by pulsatile tinnitus.

Pulsatile tinnitus, characterized by rhythmic pulsations in the ear, may be associated with circulatory issues, and it's noteworthy that fluctuations in blood pressure can contribute to this condition. Specifically, individuals with high blood pressure may experience pulsatile tinnitus as a manifestation of the increased vascular activity. Alongside circulatory factors, various lifestyle elements can also play a role, such as prolonged exposure to noise pollution from activities like using earphones, the extended use of certain medications like antibiotics and diuretics, or experiencing any trauma to the head and neck. A medical professional can conduct a thorough examination of the head and neck to diagnose pulsatile tinnitus and determine the appropriate course of action for managing both the symptoms and any underlying blood pressure concerns.

What occurs if there is blood discharge from the ear?

The experience of ear bleeding can manifest with varying levels of pain. The intensity of pain or discomfort hinges on the root cause. It is imperative not to downplay ear bleeding and to promptly seek medical attention for precise diagnosis and suitable treatment.

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Presence of blood in baby's ear wax

Bloody earwax in babies or children is typically the result of minor injuries, accompanied by minimal ear bleeding and small amounts of blood present in the earwax. These cases often resolve spontaneously.

If additional symptoms are present, it is advisable to contact your doctor to prevent potential long-term complications such as hearing loss or meningitis that may arise from an infection.

Indeed, another possible cause of ear bleeding in infants and children could be otitis media. Signs include severe exhaustion and fever in children.

Ear bleeding with or without pain

Ear bleeding can manifest as painless or with pain. Regardless of the presence of pain, monitoring ear bleeding is imperative as it can indicate an underlying issue. At times, ear bleeding may present as blood in the earwax rather than a direct flow of blood from the ear.

Various factors can contribute to ear bleeding, ranging from minor sores induced by the improper use of a cotton swab or Q-Tip to more serious causes such as head injuries or acoustic trauma. In instances where more severe causes are at play, the eardrum may be injured or perforated, often accompanied by intense pain concurrent with ear bleeding.

How to stop a bleeding ear: treatments

Here are some tips on how to stop an ear that bleeds: 
  • Ointments or antihistamines: Prescribed to alleviate skin irritations or allergies in the ear canal.
  • Superficial cleaning: Essential in cases of minor wounds or scrapes to prevent infection.
  • Antibiotics: Administered to combat infection in the case of ear infections.
  • Watchful Waiting: When ear bleeding results from superficial wounds in the ear canal or minor eardrum injuries, a period of watchful waiting is often sufficient, as the bleeding tends to naturally subside after a short duration.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication: In cases where an ear infection is the instigating factor for ear bleeding, healthcare providers may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to counter inflammation. Additionally, antibiotic or antiviral drugs might be administered to address the infection.
  • Surgery: In instances of particularly severe conditions, surgical intervention may be necessary. This is especially relevant in cases of severe tympanic perforation or extensive head trauma.
  • Pain-relieving medication: Depending on the circumstances, healthcare professionals might opt to prescribe pain-relieving drugs, sedatives, antiemetic drugs, and more to manage associated symptoms accompanying ear bleeding.
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When to seek medical advice

Doctor with stethoscope

Here's a guide on when to seek the expertise of a medical professional:

  • Experiencing dizziness, drowsiness, and vomiting
  • Severe pain in the ear region
  • Nosebleed
  • Difficulty following eye movements
  • Tinnitus
  • Head trauma
  • Altered state of consciousness

Potential risks and complications of ear bleeding

Failure to address the underlying cause of ear bleeding may result in various complications, contingent upon the diagnosis and observed symptoms:

  • Neglected otitis media has the potential to induce bone suppuration, causing harm to the bones within the skull and jaw.
  • In the case of a head injury, the risk of complete deafness may arise, stemming from possible complications such as a skull fracture and potential leakage of inner ear fluid. Ear bleeding following a head injury could also signify an elevated risk of stroke.
  • A damaged or perforated eardrum may experience irreversible harm, affecting the proper vibration of the bones in the middle ear. An eardrum perforation creates a pathway for water entry, increasing the susceptibility to more severe otitis media.
  • Injuries to the ear canal region, when untreated, may become infected, potentially leading to otitis externa—a severe and chronic inflammation of the ear canal.

Regardless of the specific treatment, it is vital to seek the expertise of an ear, nose, and throat specialist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate medical intervention. Symptoms associated with ear bleeding should not be underestimated, as they may signify underlying medical conditions necessitating immediate attention.

FAQs about ear bleeding

What is blood in the ears called?

Blood in the ears is called otorrhagia. Otorrhagia refers to the presence of blood in the ear canal, which can occur due to various reasons such as ear infections, trauma, perforated eardrums, or other underlying health issues. If you're experiencing blood in the ears, it's advisable to seek medical attention for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Can ear infections cause blood in the ear?

Yes, ear infections can lead to otorrhagia. The inflammation and irritation associated with infections may result in bleeding.

Is dangerous cleaning ear with q tip?

Using a Q-tip (cotton swab) to clean the ears can be risky and is generally not recommended. The ear canal is a delicate and self-cleaning part of the body, and inserting Q-tips can push wax deeper, potentially causing blockages or impacting the wax against the eardrum.

Can blood pressure cause ringing in the ears?

Yes, high blood pressure (hypertension) can potentially cause ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus. Elevated blood pressure can lead to changes in blood flow, impacting the delicate structures in the inner ear and triggering the perception of sounds, including ringing or buzzing.

Can a blood clot cause ringing in the ears?

While a blood clot itself is not a direct cause of ringing in the ears (tinnitus), certain conditions associated with blood clots or increased intracranial pressure may contribute to this symptom. Pseudotumor cerebri, also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension, is a condition characterized by elevated pressure inside the skull. Symptoms can include chronic headaches, blurred vision, and ringing in the ears. It's essential to note that while this condition may be associated with blood clotting disorders, tinnitus is not a direct and common consequence of a blood clot. If you experience persistent or concerning symptoms, consultation with a healthcare professional is advisable for a thorough evaluation.

Is bleeding ear an emergency?

Ear bleeding may not always be a medical emergency. If bleeding follows a head injury or trauma, it could indicate a more serious condition, such as a skull fracture. In such cases, seeking prompt medical is crucial. On the other hand, if the bleeding is mild, isolated, and without associated symptoms, it may not be an emergency, but consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable to determine the underlying cause and appropriate care.

Can airpods make your ears bleed?

No, using AirPods is generally not associated with causing ear bleeding. However, prolonged exposure to loud volumes can contribute to hearing issues such as noise-induced hearing loss. It's essential to use headphones and earbuds at a reasonable volume to protect your hearing. If you experience any discomfort, irritation, or bleeding in the ears while using earbuds, it is advisable to discontinue use and consult with a healthcare professional.

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