Ear Drainage


Ear discharge is a general term that refers to any fluid and substance that comes out of the ear. It is referred to medically as otorrhea. Types of ear drainage include blood, pus, fluid, and earwax, which is the most common.

While earwax coming from the ear is not a cause for concern, ear drainage can sometimes be caused by an irritation or infection. A ruptured eardrum can cause a white, slightly bloody, or yellow discharge from the ear. Dry crusted material on a child’s pillow may indicate a ruptured eardrum, which needs immediate medical attention.

What Causes Ear Discharge?


There are myriad possible causes for ear drainage, so an ear specialist will need to do an examination in order to reach a diagnosis.  Possible causes include:

  • Foreign object in the ear

  • Middle ear infection (otitis media)

  • Outer ear infection (otitis externa)

  • Head injury

  • Eardrum rupture

  • Cholesteatoma

  • Mastoiditis (infection of the mastoid bone in the middle ear)


Bleeding from the ear may also be due to:

  • Trauma to the ear canal

  • Injury

  • Cancer


If you or your child is experiencing any ear discharge, you should see an ear doctor as soon as possible. In the case of injury or bleeding from the ear, treat ear drainage as a medical emergency.

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