How To Deal With A Swollen Ear

Ear Swelling

As one of the most sensitive parts of the face, problems with the skin and tissue of the ears are almost impossible to ignore. The buildup of fluid in the delicate skin and tissue of the ear can make it itchy or painful to the touch, along with reddening and inflammation. There are a number of issues that can result in swollen ears. Here are the most common conditions that cause ear swelling and the treatments available.

What Causes Ear Swelling?


The ear is full of blood vessels and can have a vigorous healing reaction. Even a minor trauma can induce the ear to swell. Inflammation peaks typically within 8 hours after damage and then will start to fade. However, if the swelling does not clear up in a day, make sure to seek medical attention at once. The most common symptoms of a bruised ear are redness and swelling. Ice packs or warm compresses used alternatively can be effective in helping reduce inflammation.

Auricular Hematoma

It can be challenging to distinguish between a hematoma (structural damage to the cartilage) and a simple ear bruise. In the case of an auricular hematoma, the skin can separate from the cartilage, and the ear can lose definition. Symptoms of an auricular hematoma include; severe pain, extreme swelling, and repetitive injuries to the ear. A doctor is required to diagnose an auricular hematoma properly—forceful impacts to the ear commonly cause these kinds of injuries. This condition is also known as cauliflower ear.

Swimmer’s Ear

Otitis externa, also known as swimmer’s ear, is an infection inside the ear canal. It can occur when water and bacteria become trapped in the ear canal, often from swimming. However, inserting cotton-tipped swabs or other objects into your ear can also result in this condition. Common symptoms include; Redness and inflammation around the ear, pain in the ear to the jaw, ear discharge and drainage, and reduced or “muffled” hearing. Treatment includes antibiotics, either drops or oral medication, and medical cleaning of the ear canal to remove excess moisture to assist in drying out the area.


Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin that can develop anywhere on the body, including the ear. In fact, any condition that damages or irritates the skin around the ear, including swimmer’s ear, can lead to cellulitis. Symptoms of cellulitis in the ear include red and swollen skin that might feel warm or tender to the touch. Severe cases could induce fever occasionally. Due to the bacterial infection, seeing a doctor immediately is vital as the infection could spread and worsen without treatment.


Mastoiditis is an infection of the mastoid bone in the ear, often resulting from an untreated infection. It’s usually easy to differentiate between mastoiditis and other ear conditions that can cause swelling. The ear will swell at odd angles, with redness and inflammation more prominent on the back and behind the ear. Other symptoms of mastoid infection include; severe and persistent pain on and around the affected area, foul-smelling yellow or white discharge from the ear, fever, and acute hearing loss. Treating mastoiditis starts with antibiotics given intravenously, with severe cases requiring surgery.

Recurring Polychondritis

This exceptionally rare ailment induces repeated episodes of ear swelling in one or both ears. It’s common to occur in people who suffer from an autoimmune disease. The same condition can affect cartilage in other body areas, such as the nose and joints. Since the earlobe doesn’t have cartilage, typically, it’s not affected. Treatment strategies aim to reduce inflammation, and severe cases are referred to a rheumatologist who can offer specialized treatment.

Other Causes

Ear swelling is a complicated event that a whole host of issues could cause. Skin issues, allergic reactions, infections, and congenital irregularities have all been known to cause ear swelling.

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