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What Causes Yellow Discharge From Ears And What To Do About It?

About Yellow Discharge from Ear:

Any type of drainage from the ear can be a very unpleasant and annoying experience. It is not only discomforting but also can spoil pillows and clothes. It is often embarrassing to have fluid coming out of the ears in front of people at the workplace or at a social event. Sometimes, ear discharge is also associated with hearing loss and pain that is at times frightening and causing the person to run to the physician to get it checked out. Ear discharge is medically termed as Otorrhea. The fluid that comes out of the ear can be clear, white, yellow, and even bloody. Generally it is odorless but sometimes can be accompanied by a foul smell. [1, 2, 3]

In majority of the cases, ear discharge occurs to prevent dust, bacteria, and other particles from getting in the ear. Yellow Discharge from Ear is caused due to the ear wax mixed with water to make it more fluid allowing it to come out of the ear. Yellow Discharge from Ear is generally benign and is not a cause of worry but if it is accompanied by blood then it indicates an underlying problem that needs to be explored and checked out such as a ruptured eardrum. [1, 2, 3]

Additionally, any ear discharge that lasts for more than a few days and has other symptoms associated with it should also need to be checked out and treated. [1, 2, 3]

The article below highlights some of the causes for Yellow Discharge from Ear and ways to manage it.

What Causes Yellow Discharge From Ears?

Some of the causes for Yellow Discharge from Ear include

What Causes Yellow Discharge From Ears

Water in Ears: It is quite common for some amount of water to go inside the ear while swimming, bathing, or sea diving. This water then gets mixed with ear wax and flows out through the ear in the form of Yellow Discharge. It may look unsightly but is completely normal and is not a cause of worry in any way. This discharge resolves spontaneously and if it does not go away in a few days then it needs to be checked by an ENT specialist. [3]

Swimmer’s Ear: Medically known as otitis externa, it is a condition that also causes Yellow Discharge from Ear. It is a bacterial infection that occurs when there is excessive water accumulated in the ear canal which gives perfect atmosphere for bacteria and fungi to thrive in. This condition is seen mostly in people who spend a lot of time in water. [3]

The CDC states that Swimmer’s Ear is quite common in children even though anyone can get it. Some of the other signs of Swimmer’s ear include muffled hearing, itching sensation in the ears, pain, and fever. [3]

Trauma: At times, a trauma to the ear canal can also be caused by an injury or trauma. This is seen especially in children. An injury can lead to infections resulting in yellow drainage from the ears. The ear canal can also get injured due to scraping the ears to remove ear wax using fingernails or a toothpick which also can cause infections. [3]

Other symptoms that indicate an injury to the ear canals include pain, irritation, change in hearing or complete hearing loss. In some cases, a change in air pressure such as when traveling in a flight can also cause yellow drainage from the ears. [3]

Middle Ear Infections: Medically known as otitis media, this is quite a common infection that can cause yellow drainage from the ears. This infection is mostly observed in children between the age of 6 months and 2 years. The infection occurs when there is rapid growth of bacteria and viruses in the middle ear. This results in accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum exerting pressure on the eardrum. When the pressure is exceedingly high it may result in rupture of the eardrum causing the discharge. Some of the other symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include balance problems, hearing issues, pain in the ears, problems with sleep, headaches and fever. [3]

What Can Be Done About Yellow Discharge From Ears?

The treatment for yellow discharge from the ears depends on what is causing it. There are cases where not treatment is required, as some infections can be taken care of by the immune system of the body. However, if the drainage does not resolve after a couple of days then treatment will be required. This will be done in the form of eardrops and antibiotics to clear off the infection. In cases where a foreign object is stuck in the ear surgery may also have to be done to remove it. [3]

For cases of ruptured eardrum, it generally does not require treatment and heals within a few weeks. In case of the symptoms do not improve then a surgical procedure may have to be done to correct the rupture. [3]

Aside from the treatments mentioned above, there are also certain home remedies that can treat yellow drainage from the ears. To calm down the pain and inflammation a person may take over the counter anti-inflammatories and pain medications. There are also quite a few over the counter ear washes available that are also beneficial to treat infections and treat yellow drainage from the ears. However, these should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare provider. [3]

Generally, yellow discharge from the ears is not a cause of concern and does not require any aggressive treatment. However, if the discharge continues for more than a couple of days or is associated with other symptoms like blood in the discharge, pus in the discharge, or there is a foul odor from the discharge then a consultation with a physician is recommended. It is also advisable to go to a physician if the person has yellow discharge from the ears accompanied with headaches, fever, pain in ears, partial or complete hearing loss. [3]

In conclusion, yellow discharge from the ears is quite a benign condition. It is normally caused due to war wax when it mixes with water that enters the ear during bathing or swimming. The earwax becomes more fluid when it mixes with water and flows out of the ears in the form of yellow discharge. There are also other causes for it including infections which are quite common in children and ruptured eardrum. [1, 2, 3]

Generally yellow discharge from the ears does not require any treatments. However if there are other symptoms associated with it like pain, redness, hearing loss, loss of balance, or blood in the discharge then it is recommended to consult a physician to identify the cause and start treatment to deal with yellow discharge from the ears. [1, 2, 3]


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 6, 2022

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