What Is Ear Discharge?

Ear Discharge

The fluid located in the ear can have numerous distinguishable attributes. While light yellow and white earwax is desired as a sign of a healthy ear, irregular discharge colors could be caused by an ear infection or other issues impacting the ear canal or eardrum. This article will cover the various problems that could cause ear discharge and the available treatment options.

Ear Discharge: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Ruptured Eardrum and Physical Injury

The cavity located behind the eardrum is filled with fluid. Once ruptured, torn, or perforated, it can release a large amount of discharge. This kind of injury can happen if a foreign object is pushed too far into the ear or from a severe enough impact on the ear or skull. Sudden and extreme changes in pressure or excessive sound levels can also cause the ear to rupture and discharge fluid.


The discharge due to injury ranges from a clear fluid to signs of bloody discharge. The ear can also leak spinal fluid in the case of a skull fracture.

Treatment options:

It’s essential to see a doctor immediately if you notice bloody discharge or excessive fluid after a head injury, exposure to extreme sounds, or if the discharge is accompanied by hearing loss. Depending on how bad the injury is, treatments range from inner ear patches that promote healing to surgery to repair the damage.

Infection and Inflammation in the Ear Canal

Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections can occur anywhere along the ear canal or the surrounding areas connected to the ear. Some conditions that can result are the flu or the common cold, mastoiditis (inflammation in the jaw), excessive fluids draining from the Eustachian tubes leading to inflamed adenoids, and issues related to swimmer’s ear.


When discharge from the ear is excessive, pus-like, or foul-smelling, infection is most likely the cause. Infections are usually associated with fever, pain, and other flu-like symptoms.

Treatment options:

Typically infections have an extended period in the beginning before symptoms manifest, making early treatment difficult. Common treatments include cleaning the ear canal of debris and discharge and antibiotic or steroid medications.

Blockage and Abnormal Tissue Growth

There are several issues that can result in blockage, ear wax buildup or ear wax impaction, and abnormal tissue growth either in front or behind the eardrum, such as cholesteatoma or surfer’s ear. Objects lodged into the ear canal can also create problems.


Blockages and distortion of the ear canal can trap moisture and allow for bacterial growth, making infection a common event. Other symptoms include pain, fullness, dizziness, ringing in the ears, acute hearing loss, and discharging fluid ranging from pale and runny to discolored with a foul odor.

Treatment Options:

These kinds of issues need to be treated on a case-by-case basis. Foreign objects and obstructing tissue require surgery, while the buildup of wax and debris needs a medical-quality cleaning to treat.

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