Ear Infection

Ear discharge: What are the causes?

Fact Checked

Ear discharge is any type of fluid that drains from the ear. Generally, the earwax is an oil that is naturally produced by the body. The purpose of earwax is to ensure that bacteria, dust or other foreign bodies do not enter the ear.


On the other hand, certain conditions such as a ruptured eardrum can cause blood or other fluids to drain out of the ear. This is an indication that the ear is damaged or infected, thus requiring medical care.

Possible causes of ear drainage

In most circumstances, ear discharge is simply earwax moving out of the body. Remember that this naturally occurs. The other conditions that can cause discharge include injury or infection.


  • Trauma or damage to the ear canal can also cause ear discharge. This can occur when cleaning the ear using a cotton swab if pushed in too deep.
  • If there is an increase in the pressure while scuba diving or travelling by plane, it can cause trauma to the ear where the eardrum can tear or rupture.
  • Acoustic trauma involves damage due to excessively loud noises that can lead to a ruptured eardrum.

Ear infection

Ear discharge
Trauma or damage to the ear canal can also cause ear discharge.

Ear infections are one of the usual causes of ear discharge. This infection occurs when viruses or bacteria enters the middle ear. These ear infections can cause the buildup of fluid in the ear.

Swimmer’s ear

This condition occurs once bacteria or fungus infects the ear canal. This typically occurs after spending extended periods in water. Excess moisture within the ear can damage the skin on the walls of the ear canal, thus allowing fungus or bacteria to enter and start an infection.

When to seek medical care

A doctor should be consulted if ear discharge is yellow, white or bloody or had drainage for more than 5 days. Oftentimes, the discharge can occur with other symptoms such as fever. If other symptoms are present, a doctor should be consulted.

If there is intense pain, ear is reddened or swollen or there is hearing loss, a doctor must be seen as well. Additionally, an injury to the ear that results to drainage is another reason to see a doctor.


The management of ear discharge depends on the cause. In some cases, medical care is not needed. The “wait-and-see” approach is recommended along with close follow-up is an option for dealing with mild ear pain among children.

The indications of ear infection typically start to improve within the initial week or two without any treatment. The pain medications are usually given to deal with discomfort or pain.

In most cases, they heal without any form of treatment. In case there is a tear in the eardrum that does not heal, the doctor might place a specialized paper patch on the ear. This helps keep the hole closed while the eardrum heals. If the patch is not effective, the doctor might repair the ear surgically using a patch using the skin of the individual.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only.
If you need medical advice or help with a diagnosis contact a medical professional

  • All firstaidcprmississauga.ca content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.