Bloody Ear Wax? Here's When To Worry
January 27, 2022

Ear wax is one of many natural secretions of the human body. Many people become accustomed to the normal color of different secretions.

It can be concerning when you see something out of the ordinary. Bloody ear wax, for instance, typically grabs the attention of many people and makes them wonder if everything is okay. 

To help put your nerves at ease, below is a closer look at the reasons you may be experiencing bloody ear wax, as well as other conditions that may impact your ears. Many people have a fear of the unknown. Educating yourself on the potential reasons can help you better understand your health and reduce your anxiety levels.

Bloody Ear Wax

Blood found in any secretion of the body tends to get people freaked out. With the ears, it can cause people to automatically think of the worst-case scenario. While there are potentially serious medical reasons behind bloody earwax, there are also some explanations that are nowhere near close to a medical emergency.

Read on for a closer look at the potential causes of bloody earwax, why they occur, as well as what the best steps are to take. 

Perforated Eardrum

One of the potentially more serious causes of bloody ear wax is a perforated eardrum. A perforated eardrum occurs when the thin tympanic membrane tears. The tympanic membrane relies on it being intact to work effectively and conduct sound to other regions of the ear. When there is a hole in the membrane, it can reduce your ability to hear. 

The membrane is like nearly all tissues within the body. Even though it is incredibly thin, it contains a blood supply that allows the cells to get nutrients and oxygen. When a tear occurs, the tissue is likely to bleed into the ear canal. Over time, this will mix with the earwax and produce bloody earwax. 

A blown eardrum is something that can happen for a number of different reasons. One potential cause of a ruptured eardrum is an accidental rupture when utilizing cotton swabs which experts unanimously agree is not a good idea.

Another potential cause of a ruptured eardrum is exposure to extremely loud noise or a large differential in pressure across the eardrum. Things like scuba diving and surfacing too quickly could result in a ruptured eardrum. 

While a blown eardrum can leave you with a degree of hearing loss once it occurs, it is actually fairly good at healing itself in a few weeks. In some instances, the eardrum may not be able to fully recover and require surgical intervention to heal properly. 

Physical Injury

Another potential cause of bloody earwax is a physical injury to the ear. Cuts and breaks in the skin of the ear canal can lead to bleeding and subsequent bloody earwax. 

One potential ear injury that could contribute to the formation of bloody earwax is a blow to the side of the head. Depending on how the hit lands, it could cause a split in the skin of the outer ear canal, or it could even injure the eardrum. 

Taking a blow to the head can be a serious matter. If you experience any amount of blood coming from the ears or suspect a concussion, you should seek medical evaluation immediately. Blood coming from the ears following a head injury may indicate a brain bleed. Getting it checked out can ensure that you avoid potentially lasting damage. 

Ear Infection

Another potential cause of blood in the ear is a bad ear infection. An ear infection can be caused by a virus or bacteria. In essence, an ear infection is a colonization of tissue by foreign invaders. This invasion can damage body tissue and result in blood. 

Ear infections can occur in the outer ear canal or the middle ear, both of which can result in blood, discharge, and more. Typically most ear infections are noticed quite early on, but sometimes severe infections can take hold and cause blood in the ears. 

Some ear infections can resolve on their own, yet many of them require the assistance of antibiotics to resolve, especially if they are severe enough to cause bleeding. Getting treatment is important for severe infections because, if untreated, it can cause hearing loss. 

Other Conditions To Look Out For

Bloody ear wax could be a cause for concern. However, there are also a number of other things that could be worrisome when it comes to the health of your ears. Below is a closer look at some of those things and what you should do if you ever encounter these problems. 

Sudden Hearing Loss

One condition that could be a cause for concern is a substantial and sudden loss of hearing. Common hearing loss (such as that experienced by the elderly) progresses slowly over time and, while undesirable, is not a cause for concern. 

The main concern when it comes to a sudden and substantial loss of hearing is an issue with the auditory signal transmission and interpretation by the brain. These can be causes for concern because they can be an indication of neurodegenerative disease or even a tumor near the auditory nerve or within the brain. 

If you do experience a sudden and drastic loss of hearing, you should visit your doctor to determine the underlying cause and hopefully get your treatment in a timely manner. 

Severe Vertigo

Vertigo is a symptom in which an individual feels as if the world around them is spinning. Vertigo can be caused by a malfunction of the semicircular canals within the inner ear which are the structure responsible for your sense of balance. 

Vertigo can be a cause for concern as it is associated with a variety of conditions such as labyrinthitis, vestibular neuritis, brain disorders and can occur alongside hearing loss.

In addition, the symptoms of vertigo itself can be quite debilitating and can make it difficult to get through your day. If you suddenly develop vertigo, you may want to consult with your doctor to rule out any of the potentially more harmful causes. 


Tinnitus is a condition in which an individual hears a sound that is not present in their immediate environment. There are two main forms of tinnitus: objective tinnitus and subjective tinnitus. 

Objective tinnitus is caused by an identifiable source near the eardrum and is typically caused by turbulent blood flow near the ear. This form of tinnitus is commonly known as pulsatile tinnitus and could be an indication of cardiovascular problems such as the narrowing of arteries or high blood pressure.

Both of these conditions could pose a threat to your overall well-being. Getting your blood pressure under control and improving your cardiovascular health could help to reduce objective forms of tinnitus. 

Subjective tinnitus is another form of tinnitus that involves hearing phantom sounds, but it is caused by a non-physical source. Typically, subjective tinnitus has to do with a problem within the brain and is difficult to treat on its own. Subjective tinnitus can be difficult for some to live with and can get in the way of being able to concentrate and get work done. Targeted tinnitus therapy could help tremendously. While it doesn’t fix the sounds of tinnitus, it does allow individuals to have an easier time living with it.  

Other Colors of Ear Wax and What They Could Mean

Earwax can come in a wide variety of different colors; the color of your wax could give you insight into how your ears are functioning.

Take a closer look at some less common colors of earwax and what they mean:


Black ear wax typically catches people off guard, yet it isn’t necessarily something that you need to stress over. The darker colors of earwax like black and brown are indications that it is older and has been in the ear for a longer period of time. The wax turns a darker shade due to dirt and other particulates becoming trapped. 


Green earwax isn’t something that is common; it could be an indication of a severe ear infection. The wax may turn green as a result of discharge from an infected bit of tissue in the ear. 

Observe Your Health and Ask for Help

The presence of bloody earwax could indicate a number of different problems within the ear ranging from infection all the way to a ruptured eardrum. While bloody ear wax could be nothing more than a scratch, it may be wise to get it checked out by a physician to ensure your ears are in good health.

Not only can a physician help to narrow down the cause, but they could also help you to find the necessary treatments. Your doctor should be able to get you on the road to recovery faster. 


Ruptured eardrum (perforated eardrum) - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Vertigo: What Is It, Causes, Signs & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic

Understanding the Facts | American Tinnitus Association

Related Articles
Profile photo for Drew Sutton

Drew Sutton M.D.

Drew Sutton, MD is a board-certified otolaryngologist. He has extensive experience and training in sinus and respiratory diseases, ear and skull base surgery, and pulmonary disorders. He has served as a Clinical Instructor at Grady Hospital Emory University for more than 12 years.

Powered by GR0 Protection Status