Ear drainage or discharge is an obvious sensation that includes the draining of some kind of fluid flowing from the ear. Usually, the fluid is superfluous wax being expelled by the body through the ear canal. All the same, different kinds of otitis or infection on the ear can also be causes to stimulate ear drainage as a way of accelerating the process of healing.

What Causes Ear Drainage?

Ear Infection

An infection to the ear causes ear discharge. Infection to an ear takes place when viruses or bacteria get into the middle section of the ear located just after the eardrum. It has three bones known as ossicles needed for hearing. Infections to the ear cause the building up of fluid in the ear leading to ear discharge.


Trauma usually affects the ear canal and may be a huge cause of ear discharge. Trauma of this kind can take place as you scour your ear using a Q-tip when pushed deep inside the ear. Increased pressure while cleaning causes trauma to the ear hence rapturing the eardrum. In order to heal, your ear will start discharging off some fluid.

Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear, also known as Otitis externa, occurs after your ear canal is infected with fungus or bacteria. This happens when you stay in water for long. A lot of moisture in your ear can damage your ear canal walls. Fungi and bacteria can infiltrate and cause an infection. Once there is an infection, an ear discharge will certainly occur.  

Other Causes

There are other causes of ear drainage. One of them is mastoiditis, which is an infection that attacks the bone (mastoid) located behind the ear. Malignant otitis externa is another symptom to look out for. It is usually a swimmer's ear complication that damages bones and cartilage in the skull's base. A fracture on the skull can also cause drainage from your ear.

How to Clear Ear Drainage


Identify the kind of discharge you have. You will know that it is a bacterial infection if the discharge is yellow or brown with an awful smell. You will need antibiotics for treatment. The discharge will be cleared in a week without irrigating your ear canal.


Fill saline solution or water at room temperature in a bulb syringe. A sterile saline solution or bottled water is needed because of its purity. Tap water can also work well.


Stand by the sink tilting the infected ear away from it. Hold the syringe tip ¼ inch from the ear canal and lightly squeeze the syringe bulb, letting the water fall into your ear. You should let the water sit for several seconds before you can turn over your head. The water is supposed to drain out instantly, removing any debris deposited inside the ear canal. You will need to do this several times to clear all discharge.


Dry the external ear gently using a cotton pad. Avoid the ear canal while doing this.


Irrigate your ear canal once you are through with swimming if a swimmer’s ear reappears time and again. You can treat this with the mixture of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol.

When to See a Doctor

  • When there is hearing loss.

  • When there is a discharge following an injury.

  • When the discharge is accompanied by acute pain.

  • When the ear discharge is linked with symptoms like headache or fever.

  • When you have a yellow, clear, white or bloody discharge.

  • When there is swelling or redness coming from the ear canal.

  • When the discharge goes beyond 5 days.

How Is Ear Drainage Treated?

How Will the Doctor Examine Your Ear?

The doctor will carry out a physical examination of your ear and look inside. He or she may ask you the following questions:

  • What does the ear discharge look like?

  • When did the ear discharge start?

  • How long did it last?

  • Is it a continuous drainage or it’s on and off at times?

  • Are there other symptoms like pain in the ear, headache or fever?

The healthcare professional may use an ear discharge sample and take it for lab examination. The doctor may give anti-inflammatory medicines or antibiotics to be put in the ear. Antibiotics could be given through the mouth when a ruptured eardrum as a result of ear infection is the cause of the discharge.

How Is Your Ear Drainage Treated?

Your ear drainage discharge relies on the cause. In some situations, your ear condition may not require medical treatment.

  • Ear infection signs normally begin to clear up during the first week or after two weeks. Eardrops and pain medications could be prescribed to address any discomfort or pain. Antibiotics can be prescribed for a child below 6 months of age or for you if you are experiencing a fever beyond 102 °F.

  • Ear trauma causes, mostly heal without any form of treatment. A slit in your eardrum that does not heal as expected can be treated using a paper patch. The paper patch is meant to keep your hole closed as the eardrum continues to heal. A surgical repair can be taken as an option by your doctor through the use of your personal skin in case the paper patch turns out fruitless.

  • Swimmer's ear must be treated by your doctor to prevent further spreading of the infection. Essentially, your doctor will get you eardrops' antibiotics for almost a week. Acute cases can be given extra treatment with the administration of oral antibiotics.  

How to Prevent Ear Drainage

To avoid infections to your ear, make sure you keep away from sick people.

Breastfeeding usually offers protection for babies from infections to their ears because of the antibodies present in the breast milk. The infant should be bottle-fed from an upright position to stop infections to the ears.

Make sure you don’t get foreign objects into your ears in order to prevent breaking your eardrum. Use muffs when in a noisy place in order to protect your eardrums.

Always dry your ears after you have been in water to avoid swimmer’s ear. Again, make an effort to turn your head to one side in order to channel out any water. Medicated eardrops over the counter could help immediately after swimming to manage and lessen effects of swimmer’s ear. 


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