ear pain

Ear Injuries: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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Ear injury refers to damage to the ear due to injuries to the outer ear, ear canal or ear drum. An ear injury that ruptures the ear drum may result in a significant loss of hearing in the casualty. A casualty with an ear injury may experience ear bleeding, ear redness, ear pain, ear bruising and ear swelling if the outer ear if affected. Ear drum injuries may cause ear pain, ear canal swelling, bleeding from the ear, and drainage from the ear, vomiting and sudden loss or reduction in hearing.

Treatment for ear injury will usually depend on the cause and severity of the injury. Often ear injuries result in ear swelling which should be treated by the doctor in order to prevent permanent deformity of the casualty’s ear.ear pain The doctor may suggest cold compresses, ear wound care, antibiotic eardrops, ear compression dressing, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for pain and tetanus vaccination to reduce the risk of infection. Severe and complication ear injuries may require surgery to prevent long-term damages.

Disclaimer: the information posted on this page on ear injuries and signs, symptoms, causes and treatment is for learning purposes only. To learn how to manage and recognize ear injuries sign up for first aid courses through the workplace approved.

Types of ear injury

Types of ear injury include:

  • Auricular hematoma – blood clot beneath the skin of the outer ear
  • Ear drum puncture – ear foreign body
  • Eardrum rupture – due to increases air pressure or water pressure
  • Inner ear injury – due to increased air pressure or water pressure
  • Middle ear injury – due to foreign object
  • Ear abrasions
  • Lacerations tot eh ear
  • Contusions to the ear

Underlying causes

Causes of ear injury include:

  • Outer ear injuries – foreign objects striking the ear
  • Ear canal and ear drum injuries – sharp objects being inserted into the ear
  • Injuries to the inner ear – caused due to pressure changes in the inner and outer ear

Ear injuries, especially eardrum ruptures and inner ear injuries are caused due to pressure changes. Cause of pressure changes that may damage the ear include:

  • Flying
  • Scuba diving
  • Mountain climbing
  • Very loud noises
  • Slapping the ear

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of outer ear injury may include:

  • Ear bleeding
  • Ear pain
  • Ear bruising
  • Ear redness
  • Ear swelling
  • Ear tenderness

Signs and symptoms of eardrum injury may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Ear canal bleeding
  • Ear canal swelling
  • Ear pain
  • Loss of hearing
  • Drainage from the ear canal
  • Ear foreign body – foreign object lodged in the ear
  • Nausea and vomiting


Treatment for ear injury usually depends on the seriousness of the injury. See your doctor immediately if you experience a major ear injury or have swelling of the outer ear, as it may cause a permanent deformity.

General treatment options often include:

  • Wound care – treatment for abrasions, lacerations and puncture wounds
  • Cold compresses
  • Compression dressing
  • Antibiotic ear drops
  • Tetanus shot
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication for pain
  • Narcotic pain medication for moderate to severe  pain for short term-use only
  • Plastic surgery for injuries that may result I ear deformities
  • Surgery for injury to the middle ear

Home care treatment

Home care treatment for outer ear injuries include:

  • Wound care should be performed as directed by your health care provider
  • Clean skin gently using a mild soap and water. Avoid scrubbing the skin
  • Pat dry and apply antibiotic ointment
  • Apply cold compresses every 1-2 hours for 20-30 minute o control swelling
  • Clean the skin regularly – twice a day
  • Take medication as directed by your health care provider

For eardrum injury:

  • Make sure the ear canal is kept dry – avoid swimming and using eardrops. Place cotton balls in your ear while bathing
  • Apply petroleum jelly on a cotton ball and place it over the opening of the affected ear canal

Learn More

To learn more about ear and other head injuries and trauma register for first aid and CPR classes through St Mark James.

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