What Causes Bleeding from the Ear?

What would cause bleeding from the ear?


Bleeding from the ear can originate from the skin of the ear canal, the eardrum, or the middle ear (the space behind the eardrum). What follows is not a complete list of causes, but it will give you some idea as to the possibilities.

Common problems that lead to bleeding of the ear: Trauma to the ear canal or eardrum. These are almost always associated with some degree of bleeding. Trauma to the ear canal, for example, can cause "chapping" and even bleeding of the canal skin. What kind of trauma? Some folks attack their ear canals with any manner of sharp objects. However, even Q-tips can cause bleeding, if used repeatedly and aggressively. The problem may be the "itch-scratch" syndrome, in which repeated scratching causes the ear to become irritated and itchy, which encourages more scratching and even more itchiness. Infection of the ear-canal skin or middle ear. A foreign body trapped in the ear canal. Less common problems that lead to bleeding: Tumors of the ear canal or middle ear. Cancers can bleed, but there are also highly vascular noncancerous tumors that can develop in the middle ear. Blood-vessel malformations.

These may be congenital (meaning you were born with it), or they may develop as a result of ear trauma or head trauma. In general, it is easy for an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) to distinguish among these possibilities by taking a careful medical history and by examining the patient's ear under an operating microscope. The ENT may need to clean clotted blood from the ear canal, and at times it is necessary to place a patient on eardrops for a while to soften any hardened blood that may be present. As you can tell from the above list, bleeding from the ear is usually not serious, but it may also signify something very dangerous, even life-threatening. Prompt evaluation by an ENT should settle your concerns.


by Douglas Hoffman