Ear Injuries

Video 34 of 49
2 min 30 sec
English, Español
English, Español

In this lesson, we'll take a look at both external and internal ear injuries and how to apply first-aid treatment for both.

Ear injuries can occur due to various causes, such as trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects that have been accidentally or purposely inserted into the ear. Knowing how to assess and provide initial first aid treatment for any ear injury is essential to minimize discomfort and prevent further complications.

This lesson will guide you through the assessment and first aid treatment options for some of the more common ear injuries.

Pro Tip #1: Before we begin, it's important to note that ear injuries can range from minor to severe. In cases of severe ear injury or if the injury involves hearing loss, it's crucial to seek medical assistance. Therefore, assessment of the ear injury is vital.

Having said that, even in the event of a severe ear injury, you should still provide first aid to alleviate discomfort. Now let's take a look at how to assess and provide first-aid treatment for an ear injury.

First Aid Treatment for External Ear Injuries

Inspect the external ear for any visible injuries, cuts, or bleeding. If there is bleeding, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or sterile gauze to control it. Maintain pressure until the bleeding stops.

Do not insert any objects into the ear canal, and do not attempt to clean the ear extensively. If there are signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge, seek medical attention.

First Aid Treatment for Foreign Objects in the Ear

If a foreign object - such as a small toy or insect – is visible and can be easily removed without pushing it in further, use clean tweezers or your fingers to fish it out. However, remember to use EXTREME caution and try to remove it gently.

Avoid using sharp objects or excessive force, as this may cause injury or push the object deeper into the ear potentially causing permanent hearing loss. If the object cannot be easily removed, or if moving the object causes pain, discomfort, or bleeding, be sure to stop and seek medical attention.

First Aid Treatment for Bleeding from in the Ear

Foreign bodies or significant head trauma can lead to bleeding from the ear canal. For this type of bleeding injury, it is best to quickly seek medical attention.

As for the bleeding, loosely apply a dressing or other clean materials to the outside of the ear and track how much blood came out, such as how many gauze pads or towels were used.

Pro Tip #2: If you try to apply direct pressure, this could cause a build-up of pressure in the ear and cause an increase in pain or lead to other complications. Monitoring the victim and asking how they are doing will help determine if the pain is suddenly getting worse. If it is, it might be caused by this direct pressure.

Remember, while these first aid measures can provide initial relief, seeking professional medical care for significant ear injuries, severe pain, changes in hearing, or especially head trauma that causes bleeding from the ear is essential.

A Word About Basilar Skull Fractures

Basilar skull fractures are fractures that occur in the base of the skull, which is the area at the bottom of the skull that supports the brain. Symptoms related to the ear that can occur with basilar skull fractures include:

  1. Battle's Sign: This refers to bruising behind the ear and is a common sign of basilar skull fracture. It typically appears a few days after the injury and is due to bleeding beneath the skin.
  2. Hearing Loss: Basilar skull fractures can affect the structures of the middle and inner ear, leading to conductive or sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot reach the inner ear due to damage to the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear bones. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs due to damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve.
  3. Tinnitus: Ringing or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus) can occur as a result of the injury to the inner ear structures.
  4. Ear Bleeding: Bleeding from the ear canal (otorrhagia) can occur if the fracture involves damage to the temporal bone or surrounding structures.
  5. Dizziness and Vertigo: Damage to the inner ear or vestibular system can cause dizziness, vertigo (the sensation of spinning), and imbalance.
  6. Facial Nerve Dysfunction: Fractures involving the temporal bone can affect the facial nerve (cranial nerve VII), leading to facial weakness or paralysis on the affected side.

CSF Leak: In severe cases of basilar skull fracture, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can leak from the nose or ear (otorrhea). This can be a serious complication requiring medical attention.