What Causes Ear Bleeding?

A ruptured eardrum is a common reason, but there are other possibilities

Ear bleeding can happen due to trauma, a cut or scratch, an ear infection, an object inside the ear, a tumor, or a ruptured eardrum. You can have more than one reason for bleeding ears—for example, some of these problems can lead to a ruptured eardrum.

Other symptoms you may experience in addition to ear bleeding will vary depending on the cause. Your other symptoms can guide your healthcare provider as they determine why you have bleeding from your ear.

This article will help you to learn more about the causes and treatment of blood in the ear. It also explains how to know if you need to see a healthcare provider.

Close-up of ear

Zave Smith / Getty Images

What Causes Ear Bleeding?

The amount of blood coming from your ear and the duration of bleeding can vary depending on the reason why your ear is bleeding.

Usually, a small scratch or pimple will only bleed a few drops and will stop quickly. You can have more significant bleeding from a ruptured eardrum or head trauma.

Blood may come from outside your ear or from the ear canal. Generally, superficial bleeding is less serious than bleeding from inside your ear. However, if you are taking a blood thinner or have a blood disorder, you could have unusual amounts of ear bleeding, even from a small cut or wound.

Some of the causes of ear bleeding include:

  • Ruptured or perforated eardrum
  • Skin injury
  • Trauma
  • Tumor

Ruptured or Perforated Eardrum

The eardrum is the membrane that separates the ear canal from the middle part of the ear. It vibrates in response to sound and enables hearing.

A ruptured eardrum is a tear—or perforation—in the membrane that separates the middle ear and ear canal. This can occur as a complication of different types of health issues that affect the ears and it may cause bleeding and hearing issues.

Some of the causes of a ruptured or perforated eardrum include:

  • Ear infection
  • Sudden changes in pressure from flying on a plane or scuba diving
  • Trauma
  • Something stuck in the ear canal
  • Very loud noises

A middle ear infection can cause a ruptured eardrum if the fluid from the infection settles behind the eardrum and causes a significant amount of pressure. And a ruptured eardrum can put you at a high risk of an ear infection because it can predispose to contamination of the inner ear.

Skin Injury

This is fairly common, and it usually causes minor bleeding,

Causes include:

  • A cut: A small, superficial cut can happen from things like shaving, headphones, putting on a pair of glasses, leaning against the wall, or even a haircut.
  • Ear pimples: These can develop for any reason, including contact dermatitis, acne, a rash, or an infection (like chicken pox).
  • Scratching scabs: This can cause superficial bleeding and may lead to infection if the cut becomes contaminated.


Traumatic injuries can range from mild to severe and they can cause a range of effects, including superficial bleeding, a ruptured eardrum, a skull fracture, bleeding in the brain, or a combination of these types of damage.

Types and causes of trauma that can cause bleeding in or around the ear:

  • Ear cleaning/wax removal
  • A blow to the head or ear

Objects that are accidentally placed in the ear (like a toy), or an object that broke after being deliberately placed in the ear (like part of a hearing aid) can also cause injuries.


Ear canal cancer, middle ear cancer, or skull base cancers can cause bleeding and other symptoms, such as dizziness, headaches, and hearing loss. Tumors in the ear can be primary (started in the ear) or metastatic (spread to the ear from another area of the body) and can cause different types of hearing loss depending on their size and exact location in the ear.

Accompanying Symptoms

Depending on the cause, symptoms may occur along with bleeding inside the ear, such as:

  • Earache or sudden relief of an earache
  • Fevers
  • Hearing loss in the affected ear
  • A sense of fullness or pressure in the ear
  • Headaches
  • Spinning sensation or dizziness
  • Pus or fluid discharge from the ear canal
  • Tinnitus (ringing noise in the ear)

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have unexplained, persistent, or otherwise concerning bleeding in your ear, call your healthcare provider to set up an appointment so you will know the cause of the bleeding and your next steps.

If you were hit in the head or bumped your head and your ear is bleeding, get medical attention immediately or go to the emergency room.

Also get immediate medical attention if you have the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing loss
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Problems with vision
  • Confusion or loss of consciousness

Ear Bleeding Treatment

Treatment for ear bleeding depends on the cause. If you know that you scratched your ear or had a pimple, and the bleeding has stopped after a few minutes, you can wait for it to heal. But if there is any chance that the bleeding is coming from inside your ear, you need to see a healthcare practitioner. If the blood inside the ear is not carefully cleaned out, it may become dried up and cause symptoms, such as dizziness, headaches, or hearing loss.

You should not try to manage severe ear bleeding or bleeding that's associated with other symptoms (like dizziness or hearing loss) on your own.

In severe cases, your provider may refer you to an otolaryngologist, a surgeon specialized in the care of ear, nose, and throat disorders.

Some potential treatments:

  • Ear infection: Your practitioner may prescribe antibiotics if there's concern about a bacterial infection. A viral ear infection is not treated with antibiotics.
  • Eardrum rupture: If an eardrum rupture is small, it may heal on its own. An otolaryngologist may place a patch and medication over the eardrum that will help it to heal. But some holes will have to be treated surgically, in which tissue is used from another area to patch the eardrum.
  • Tumor: Cancer may need to be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these approaches.
  • An object in the ear: The object may need to be removed by a medical or surgical specialist.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is my ear bleeding?

    Ear bleeding can happen because of an injury or as a symptom of another condition. Potential causes include trauma or infection, an object inside of the eardrum, frostbite, burn, and cancer. The most common cause is a ruptured eardrum.

  • How is a perforated eardrum treated?

    In many cases, a perforated eardrum will heal by itself. Surgery may be needed if a perforated eardrum takes longer than three weeks to heal on its own. If you suspect a perforated eardrum, contact your healthcare provider. Avoid getting water in the ear. When blowing your nose, do so lightly to prevent further damage.

  • Why can I hear my blood pumping in my ear?

    You may be hearing blood pumping in the ear because of pulsatile tinnitus. This rhythmic sound, heard in one or both ears, is due to turbulent flow in blood vessels in the head or neck. It can be a result of high blood pressure, a blood vessel disorder, certain vascular tumors, or conductive hearing loss.

  • How do you stop ear bleeding?

    If ear bleeding comes from within the ear, gently apply clean cotton to keep blood from seeping out. If the blood is from the outer ear, apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Dress the wound with a clean bandage fit to the ear's shape but not taped too tightly. A cold pack can help to reduce pain and swelling. It is always a good idea to contact medical help when ear bleeding occurs.

  • Why is my ear piercing bleeding?

    Ear piercings are known to cause light bleeding. If the bleeding continues, the ear could be infected. Contact a healthcare provider for more information and treatment.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cedars-Sinai. Impacted Earwax.

  2. Cedars-Sinai. Ear Barotrauma.

  3. Cancer Research UK. What is ear cancer?

  4. Harvard Health. Perforated eardrum.

  5. Nemours KidsHealth. Ear Injuries.

  6. National Health Service (NHS). Perforated Eardrum.

  7. Penn Medicine. Pulsatile tinnitus.

  8. MedlinePlus. Ear Emergencies.

By Yvelette Stines
Yvelette Stines, MS, MEd, is an author, writer, and communications specialist specializing in health and wellness.