What Causes Ear Bleeding?

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

Ear bleeding can happen because of trauma or a cut to the ear, an ear infection, an object inside of the eardrum, cancer, or most commonly, a ruptured eardrum—the membrane that separates the ear canal from the middle part of the ear.

The symptoms you may experience in addition to ear bleeding will vary depending on the reason behind it. For example, since the eardrum is the area of the ear that gets the vibration from sound and enables hearing, a rupture may cause bleeding and hearing issues.

This article will help you to earn more about the causes and treatment of blood in the ear. It also presents the reasons why it may be important for you to see a healthcare provider.

Close-up of ear

Zave Smith / Getty Images

Ruptured or Perforated Eardrum

When a ruptured eardrum occurs, there is a tear—or perforation—in the membrane that separates the middle ear and ear canal. Typically, a middle ear infection can cause a ruptured eardrum. This happens because the fluid from the infection settles behind the eardrum and a pus-like liquid drains from the ear.

Ear bleeding is also known to happen. As a result, temporary hearing loss may occur.

Symptoms of a ruptured or perforated eardrum include:

  • Earache or sudden relief of an earache
  • Hearing loss in the affected ear
  • Spinning sensation or dizziness
  • Bleeding or fluid discharge from the ear canal
  • Ringing noise in the ear

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 from something stuck in the ear canal
  • Very loud noises

Other Causes of Ear Bleeding

There are other less likely causes of bleeding in the ear, including: 

  • Ear pimples
  • Ear cleaning/wax removal, either professional or at-home with a cotton swab
  • A blow to the head
  • Ear canal cancer, middle ear cancer, or skull base cancers
  • An object in the ear
  • Scratching scabs

Ear Bleeding Treatment

There are a few treatment options for a ruptured eardrum.

If the rupture is small, it may heal on its own. If this is the case, your practitioner may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. But some holes will have to be treated by an otolaryngologist, a healthcare provider trained in the medical and surgical care of ear, nose, and throat disorders.

If the hole is small, they may place a patch and medication over the eardrum that will help it to heal. If the rupture is not healed after two months, the healthcare provider will most likely suggest surgery in which tissue is used from another area to patch the eardrum.

It is important to speak with a practitioner regarding questions, concerns, and a treatment plan.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have 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.

Don’t hesitate if you also have the following symptoms:

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

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, cancer, or the most common, a ruptured eardrum. If the blood inside the ear is not carefully cleaned out, it may become dried up.

  • 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 water in the ear and, 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. Harvard Health. Perforated eardrum.

  3. Cedars-Sinai. Ear Barotrauma.

  4. Cancer Research UK. What is ear cancer?

  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.