Our team’s expertise in pediatric audiology enables us to carefully evaluate children's hearing abilities and ensure that any hearing loss is detected early and appropriate interventions are taken.

What Causes Drainage from the Ear?

by | Dec 16, 2022 | Patient Resources

Drainage from the ear can be a disconcerting sight and feeling. Before worrying about major health issues or hearing loss, it is important to understand the possible causes of ear drainage.

Ear infection symptoms

Ear infections are a common cause of ear drainage. Ear infections occur when a viral or bacteria infection affects the middle ear.

Foreign bodies in the ear may have been accidentally or intentionally inserted into the ear (ever try to clean the ears with a cotton swab?).

Otitis externa is an outer ear infection in the tube separating the opening of the ear to the eardrum.

Middle ear problems

Middle ear infections can also cause drainage. Otherwise known as otitis media, this type of ear infection also occurs from a virus or bacteria. These cause the area behind the eardrum to become inflamed, red and sore.

Should an infection get really bad, mastoiditis can develop. Mastoiditis is an infection that develops in the mastoid bone after a middle ear infection blocks the Eustachian tube and moves toward the mastoid bone.

Discharge and ear health

A foul smelling discharge could likely be caused by malignant otitis externa. This occurs when an ear infection spreads to the outer ear and surrounding tissue.

Head injuries, which damage the brain, skull or scalp, can also cause ear discharge. This condition is considered a medical emergency; individuals should go to their nearest urgent care center to seek help from a physicians.

Damage to the ear

Another emergency that could cause ear drainage is an eardrum rupture. When the eardrum ruptures, a small hole or tear occurs in the eardrum. Also called the tympanic membrane, this thin tissue vibrates when sound enters the eardrum.

Another malady causing ear discharge is cholesteatoma, a noncancerous cyst that develops in the ear.

Trauma to the head

Lastly, skull fractures, defined as any break in the cranial bone or skull, can cause bleeding, bruising, pain or swelling, subsequently causing ear drainage. If you or someone has been in an accident or has experienced a fall on the head, it is important to visit an urgent care center.

Most important to remember with ear discharge is that an audiologist is the first line of defense for helping identify the cause of the discharge. These professionals will be able to help find a solution to cure the malady causing the ear discharge.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Gabrielle Tabb Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Tabb received her Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders in 2016 from Texas State University. Following this, she attended the University of North Texas where she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2020 with her Doctorate in Audiology. While in graduate school, Dr. Tabb had various clinical rotations in the DFW area, including UT Southwestern Medical Center, Bonham VA, multiple ENT locations, educational audiology, and several private practices. She completed her externship at OU Physicians Department of Head and Neck Surgery, rotating through the adult and pediatric clinics. Following her externship, she worked as an audiologist primarily in the OU Children’s Physicians location where she was able to serve medically complex children of all ages. Originally from South Texas, she is overjoyed to be able to serve her fellow Texans once again. Dr. Tabb is licensed to practice audiology in the State of Texas. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-A) from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and is a member of Texas Academy of Audiology (TAA). She is passionate about providing the upmost hearing healthcare to people of all ages. She enjoys opening a world of sound to children who are in a crucial stage of speech-language development and adults who believed themselves to be relegated to a life of “social distance” and isolation because of their hearing loss. Dr. Tabb is dedicated to educating patients and their families about the effects of untreated hearing loss on social/emotional health, mental health, and communication. When she is not working, she enjoys playing with her dogs (Winston and Duke), spending time with her husband and family, gardening, cooking, watching movies, and reading.