3 Effective Cauliflower Ear Treatments

Cauliflower ear, also referred to as perichondrial hematoma, auricular hematoma, or wrestler’s ear, is a kind of ear deformity caused by blunt trauma or other injuries, such as those sustained during a boxing or wrestling battle.

If the damage is not addressed, it might cause blockage, inhibiting blood flow and harming tissue. This gives the overlying skin a rough or lumpy appearance to the normal ear, similar to a cauliflower. Timely treatment may help avoid deformity from becoming permanent.

Luckily, the damage that produces cauliflower ear may usually be avoided by using proper protective headgear.

Symptoms Of Cauliflower Ear

Check your outer ear in a mirror for swelling or bruises if you’ve had an ear injury or repeated hits or blows to the side of your head. You can also observe the change in your ear’s shape. Fresh blood flow to your ear cartilage is cut off when blood pools around the wounded location.

Severe Symptoms Of Cauliflower Ear

Cauliflower ear, if left untreated, can lead to severe symptoms such as:

  • Blurred vision.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Headache.
  • Ringing in your ear.

Wrestlers with cauliflower ears were considerably more likely than wrestlers without the issue to incur hearing loss, according to research published in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine. It’s also possible that cauliflower ear is linked with a greater risk of ear infections. Detecting the early indications of cauliflower ear will safeguard you from further issues and ear deformities.

Causes Of Cauliflower Ear

A strike to the ear is the most prevalent cause of cauliflower ear, resulting in hematomas or tiny collections of blood clots that obstruct blood circulation through blood vessels and nourishment.

The semi-rigid structure that gives the ear its form can also happen when the skin is peeled away from the cartilage. It is like a blunt force trauma to the ear.

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Photo by Nick Laham from Getty Images

Developing cauliflower ear is frequently associated with sports injuries, although not always. Any direct trauma 1can cause it. Inflammation can also cause cauliflower ear in the underlying cartilage of the ear lobe.

The excellent news is that, even after an injury, cauliflower ear can generally be avoided. When blood supply is restricted, the damaged cartilage dies and folds in on itself without the support of the surrounding tissue.

Scar tissue can grow, resulting in a bloated and distorted appearance. The symptoms could become more noticeable with time, and they may be permanent.

Risk Factors Connected With Cauliflower Ear

Cauliflower ear is particularly common among athletes who engage in close-contact sports like wrestling or boxing. In wrestling, for example, trauma can occur when opponents’ heads rub or strike one other amid matches or when they contact the wrestling mat.

Rugby players and others who practice martial arts are also susceptible to cauliflower ear. People who engage in such activities are at a greater risk than the general public. In these sports, protective headgear has long been standard.

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Photo by NurPhoto from Getty Images

Non-athletes, however, are not immune to these ailments. Accidents or violent altercations may be the cause. If the piercing becomes infected, it can also be a consequence of “deep” piercings in the top part of the ear, through the cartilage can also lead to cartilage death and cauliflower ear occurs.

How Can You Know If You Have a Cauliflower Ear?

Clinical signs, such as the appearance of the ear and related symptoms, as well as a history of direct ear trauma, are used to diagnose cauliflower ear. In the vast majority of instances, no additional laboratory testing or scanning is required.

If there are any signs or symptoms of serious head trauma, such as neurologic problems or loss of consciousness, a computed tomography 2(CT) scan of the face should be conducted. If cauliflower ear appears in youngsters who do not participate in contact sports or the elderly, it might be a sign of abuse, and physicians should be on the lookout.

Treatment For Cauliflower Ear

There’s still a possibility you can prevent getting a cauliflower ear if you have an accident that produces a blockage in your ear’s tissues. The purpose of treatment is to relieve the blockage and allow blood to flow freely again to the damaged areas.

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Photo by PA Images from Getty Images

1. Initial Or Early Treatment

As soon as possible, apply ice to the injury. Treating acute cauliflower ear can prevent permanent deformity. Apply ice for 15 minutes at a time to achieve this. Treated quickly, it helps in the reduction of swelling and the prevention of cauliflower ear. You must also take medical professional or medical attention help as soon as possible to receive prompt treatment.

2. Compression And Drainage

By draining the extra blood from your ear, your doctor may be able to treat the issue. They do this by creating an incision at the location of the injury to allow the blood to drain.

Your doctor will prescribe medications to help prevent infection after draining your ear. A compressive dressing will be done to your ear by your doctor to ensure that it heals properly.

Until your ear is healed, you should avoid activities that may cause extra damage. Inquire with your doctor to provide medical advice for when you will be able to resume routine activities. You must follow what they are advised to enhance your results.

Cauliflower ear can recur, so it’s crucial to keep an eye on it even after it’s been drained for swelling.

“The cartilage will subsequently get thicker and scarred and start to appear like the cauliflower veggie, thus the term ‘cauliflower ear,'” explains pediatric otolaryngologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, if the swelling isn’t treated early enough or if initial therapy is ineffective.

3. Surgery

Cauliflower ear is permanent, although, in certain situations, ear hematoma-recommended reconstructive surgery, also known as corrective surgery, known as otoplasty, may reverse the look.

Your doctor will create an incision behind the ear to reveal the cartilage throughout the procedure. Next, your doctor will eliminate cartilage or suture (such placement is used in your ear to remodel it). The procedure may require general anesthesia3, although, in certain circumstances, a local anesthetic can be used instead.

Within six weeks, you should be able to resume active activity, though your doctor may advise you to wait longer.

Prevention Of Cauliflower Ear

The greatest way to prevent cauliflower ear is to avoid it in the first place. Wear a helmet or protective headgear to protect yourself if you participate in high-risk activities like wrestling.

Children, in particular, require special protection. Look for safety headwear that includes ear protectors, and protective gear, and ensure that your child wears it whenever they engage in contact sports.

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Photo by Tempura from Getty Images

Ascertain that your kid and their coach are aware of the early indicators of cauliflower ear and the need of receiving medical help as soon as possible.

You must also discuss the use of blood beta-blockers4, also known as sports medicine, while getting involved in contact sports with your doctor. Blood thinners cause cauliflower ear, thus avoiding them before engaging in a contact activity may help prevent the disease.

Never discontinue taking drugs given by your doctor without first consulting with them.

Important Facts About Cauliflower Ear

In high-risk contact sports, such as martial arts, the rising incidence of cauliflower ear is frequent. Blood gathers between the upper ear cartilage and the perichondrium after the initial ear injury, resulting in the formation of an auricular hematoma, accumulated blood, or blood clot.

The hematoma 5isolates the perichondrium out of the cartilage, disrupting the blood flow to the cartilage. If left untreated, this can result in necrosis of the outer ear, cartilage loss, and the production of fibrous tissue and connective tissue that looks like a pale, wrinkled cauliflower.

The signs and symptoms of existing cauliflower ear and a history of direct ear damage are used to make a clinical diagnosis. Individuals experiencing neurologic symptoms or loss of consciousness should be evaluated further with a head CT scan.

To avoid cartilage necrosis, those who have sustained a severe ear injury and developed an auricular hematoma should seek medical attention within 6 hours of the accident. The initial therapy is generally the aspiration of the collected blood with a needle, followed by a pressure dressing of the ear.

More intrusive procedures being medically reviewed are usually suggested for those who arrive after the initial 6-hour window has passed.

What If Cauliflower Ear is Left Untreated?

A cauliflower ear is typically innocuous if left untreated. Those who do not seek treatment usually do not suffer any negative consequences.

Wrestlers with cauliflower ears, on the other hand, are more prone to have hearing loss (found during the hearing tests), according to preliminary research published in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, academic research institutions, and many other peer-reviewed studies.

According to the authors, this might be because the risk of infection is higher or because the swelling physically limits the ears.

Cauliflower ear can create a variety of difficulties, including trouble using headphones and difficulty removing wax from the ear. As a result, those who have a cauliflower ear are more likely to get ear infections than others.

Learn more about ear cleaning.


1. Can you get rid of the cauliflower ear?

The cauliflower ear is a persistent condition. It needs immediate medical attention. If the deformity is not addressed, it will become permanent in seven to ten days. Due to deteriorating cartilage, your ear may potentially droop over at the edge.

2. What causes cauliflower ear specifically?

A direct hit to the outer ear can cause a cauliflower ear. Blood or other fluids obstruct normal blood flow by filling the area between them. The only source of blood for the cartilage is the skin that covers the outside of the ear. The cartilage is deprived of essential nutrients in the absence of appropriate blood flow.

3. Is cauliflower ear healthy or harmful?

Cauliflower ear can result in severe pain, loss of balance, and hearing if neglected. According to a study that only included wrestlers, those with cauliflower ears had a much higher recorded prevalence of hearing loss than their colleagues without the condition.

  1. Coimbra, Raul, et al. “European Society of Trauma and Emergency Surgery (ESTES) recommendations for trauma and emergency surgery preparation during times of COVID-19 infection.” European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery 46 (2020): 505-510. ↩︎
  2. Withers, Philip J., et al. “X-ray computed tomography.” Nature Reviews Methods Primers 1.1 (2021): 18. ↩︎
  3. Pavel, Mahmud Arif, et al. “Studies on the mechanism of general anesthesia.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117.24 (2020): 13757-13766. ↩︎
  4. Mancia, Giuseppe, et al. “Individualized beta-blocker treatment for high blood pressure dictated by medical comorbidities: indications beyond the 2018 European Society of Cardiology/European Society of Hypertension Guidelines.” Hypertension 79.6 (2022): 1153-1166. ↩︎
  5. Feghali, James, Wuyang Yang, and Judy Huang. “Updates in chronic subdural hematoma: epidemiology, etiology, pathogenesis, treatment, and outcome.” World neurosurgery 141 (2020): 339-345. ↩︎

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