Ear Trauma

Ear trauma causes pain and discomfort, and may lead to an eardrum perforation, tinnitus, and hearing loss. Trauma to the outside of the ear can cause lacerations that may require surgical repair; complex repairs may require a series of staged procedures. Blunt trauma can cause a blood clot to form under the skin of the ear, which can affect the blood supply to the ear cartilage and cause distortion and deformity (e.g., “Cauliflower ear.”) It is important that this is diagnosed and treated quickly to prevent permanent deformity of the ear.

Ear Trauma May Be Caused By a Variety of Factors

There are a variety of factors that can cause ear trauma. These include foreign objects inserted too deeply into the ear canals (e.g., cotton swabs, safety pins or toothpicks); sudden changes in pressure resulting from loud sounds (explosions or gunfire), air travel, scuba diving, or a direct head injury; falling onto the ear; sports injury; and car accident.

Symptoms of ear trauma include partial or full hearing loss, particularly in the high-pitched ranges, and a ringing in the ears known as tinnitus.

Additional symptoms such as pain, bleeding, bruising, tenderness, redness, swelling, liquid discharge, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting may also occur.

To avoid ear trauma, never insert foreign objects into your ears. Make sure to treat ear infections promptly. Always wear proper ear protection when engaging in activities where loud noise might cause hearing damage (e.g., rock concerts, hunting). Seek medical attention if you are experiencing pain in the ear, ringing sounds, dizziness or vertigo, drainage or bleeding from the ear, or hearing loss.