Cauliflower Ear - A guide to Hearing Loss

This is the name given to the lumpy, misshapen ears often seen on boxers, wrestlers and anyone who participates in contact sports. They may be seen as a part of the sport albeit an unappealing part but if left untreated can remain permanently damaged. Can it lead to hearing loss?

A cauliflower ear is prone to infections which can have long term consequences. An ear infection can cause a blockage and a build up of air pressure which can lead to a ruptured ear drum. If the ear drum is ruptured then the ability to hear will be affected. And this can’t be reversed even with treatment.

How does this happen?

If your ear is twisted or undergoes repeated punches and blows then this results in damage to the cartilage. And the cartilage is what gives it its distinctive shell like shape. A blood clot forms beneath the skin which restricts the blood supply to the ear. This blood supply contains oxygen and nutrients which are essential for the healing process. But if these are obstructed then the ear shrivels and looks like the top of a cauliflower.

Basically, you are left with a permanently damaged and deformed ear. Cosmetic surgery can improve the external appearance of the ear but not any internal damage which includes your hearing.

Treatment for a cauliflower ear

If your ear becomes damaged then seek medical advice as soon as you can. A blood clot will have formed or fluid will have collected underneath the skin – where the damage took place and must be drained to allow blood to flow into the area and start the healing process.

The quicker this happens the better.

A doctor will clean the ear to remove any dirt or bacteria before draining off the fluid (or removing the blood clot). He/she will place a compress (type of dressing) over the ear which helps to stop any further bleeding and reduce any swelling.

This dressing will be left in place for around 10 days or so.

You will be given a course of antibiotics to take as these can prevent the risk of infection. And you can take over the counter painkillers to ease any pain or discomfort.

Avoid any further contact during this period, whether in training or in a competition or fight. Any further contact can result in more damage to the ear and an increased risk of infections. If you are a devotee of mixed martial arts or a keen boxer then these are all things to take into consideration. Every sport has its risks but your hearing is precious and care must be taken.

The most obvious way of preventing this from happening is to not do a contact sport but if you find this unacceptable then reduce the risk of a cauliflower ear by wearing a head guard or a scrum cap (if you play rugby).

Hearing Loss

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