Feline Ear Issues

cat with ear infection
Most cats will never have a serious problem with their hearing during their lives. However, several ear issues can affect cats. Many of these can cause discomfort or pain, but some may even lead to a partial loss of hearing or deafness.

Ear issues in cats can have a variety of causes, including infections, trauma, conditions present at birth (congenital) or changes that occur with age. Most ear disorders in cats are easily treated, with no permanent damage to a cat’s hearing. Some conditions, though, can cause partial or total deafness, especially when they are not diagnosed promptly or left untreated.

Aural Hematoma

An aural hematoma is a swelling of the pinna—the fleshy, visible part of a cat’s outer ear. This structure is essential for hearing. Its job is to gather sound waves and direct them to the middle and inner ears.

Because the pinna is so exposed, it is easily injured. When the blood vessels inside the pinna are broken, the blood accumulates inside and causes the pinna to swell up like a balloon.

Injuries to the pinna can happen as a result of fights with cats or other animals. However, it is most often caused by a cat scratching too much at its own ears. This may be in response to an ear infection or ear mites.

An aural hematoma may heal on its own, but this will often take several weeks and cause the pinna to become deformed. The excess blood can be drained with a needle (aspiration), but surgery is a better long-term treatment. The cat will also need to be treated for underlying parasite infestations or infections.


A variety of conditions can cause deafness in cats. Some cats may be born deaf or become deaf shortly after birth, as is the case with white cats with blue eyes. These conditions cannot be treated and the deafness is permanent.

Most cases of deafness in cats, though, occur later in life (acquired) as a result of a condition such as:

  • Growths in the ear, both cancerous and non-cancerous
  • Household chemicals that reach the middle or inner ear, either through a perforated ear drum or by the cat ingesting the chemical
  • Thickening of the eardrum as a cat ages

The most common cause of deafness in cats, though, is an untreated infection of the outer ear (otitis externa) that passes into the middle or inner ear. This infection can be caused by bacteria, ear mites or yeast.

Acquired ear issues in cats are often treated with medicine, such as antibiotics for an infection. In some cases, however, surgery is the best option. Hearing loss can sometimes be slowed with proper treatment, but once a cat loses its hearing, the damage is permanent.

Keeping the cat’s environment clean will reduce the risk of an ear infection. You should also check your cat’s ears regularly for signs of infection and watch for excessive scratching at the ears. If you notice either of these, contact your feline veterinarian rather than trying to clean the ears on your own.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are a frequently diagnosed ear issue in cats. These tiny creatures crawl into the ear and start to breed, leading to an ear infection. If ear mites are not treated, the infection can spread to the middle and inner ear and cause hearing loss or balance problems.

Signs of an ear mite infestation include:

  • Inflammation of the outer ear
  • Flattening of the ear against the head
  • Excessive scratching of the ear
  • Shaking of the head
  • Accumulation of wax and mite debris inside the ear canal

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian. If ear mites are present, the wax and debris will first need to be cleaned from the cat’s ears. A topical medication is then applied to the outer ear and ear canal. Ear mites easily pass from one cat to another, so you may need to have all of your cats checked or treated.


Otitis externa is another commonly diagnosed ear issue in cats. This is an infection of the outer ear. It can lead to a buildup of earwax and damage to the tissues of the ear. If it is left untreated, the infection can spread to the middle or inner ear and cause loss of hearing—partial or total—or balance problems.

This condition has several causes, including:

  • Ear mites
  • Yeast infection
  • Bacterial infection

If the infection migrates to the middle ear (otitis media) or inner ear (otitis interna), it can damage the sensitive structures of the inner ear, leading to a partial or complete loss of hearing. A cat’s balance may also be affected.

Otitis externa is easily treated by cleaning the outer ear and applying topical medications for the bacteria, yeast or ear mites. If the infection is severe enough, surgery may be required to remove the damaged tissues of the ear.

White Cats and Deafness

Deafness is a common hereditary problem in white cats, especially if they also have blue eyes. Hereditary conditions are ones that are passed from a parent to its offspring. This kind of deafness is permanent and has no treatment.

Between 17 and 22 percent of white cats without blue eyes are born deaf. The risk of going deaf increases if one or both eyes are blue. Up to 85 percent of white cats with two blue eyes are deaf.

The deafness may be present at birth or develop shortly afterwards. Sometimes these cats are only deaf in one ear. In those cases, the cat may be able to function normally.

Cats that are born completely deaf can also do well as companion animals. However, they should be kept indoors and care should be taken to avoid startling them.

To learn more about ear issues that affect cats, call our office today.


Find us on the map

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule


9:00 AM-6:00 PM


9:00 AM-8:00 PM


9:00 AM-4:00 PM


9:00 AM-6:00 PM


9:00 AM-5:00 PM


9:00 AM-3:00 PM



  • "I have my puppy for only 4 days and the doctor provided all the answers to my million questions. She was patient and kind and very loving to my pup. She diagnosed ear mites and cleaned his ears throughly. She explained everything throughly and even comforted me when I got upset about him being a little sick. I would highly recommend and will be taking Finn her from here on out. Thank you thank you thank you!!"
    by Jeanna P. on 04/06/2022
  • ""My husband and I absolutely love Three Village Veterinary Hospital! Our puppies adore Dr. Sophia, and she takes the best care of them whenever we bring them in. When our newest puppy broke her leg and had to have surgery, Dr. Sophia called us right away to check in and see how she was doing, which meant the world to us! All of the vet techs and front desk staff are also amazing! I couldn't imagine bringing our babies anywhere else.""
    Jessica K.
  • "'They have taken great care of my puppy...even when he does scary things like eating light bulbs ( metal and all). As a first time dog owner I have lots of questions and each of the vets have taken their time to answer all of my questions and concerns without ever making me feel stupid for asking. The support staff is also very knowledgeable, helpful and truly gets excited to see each of the animals that comes through the door.'"
    Joanne W
  • ""I could not be happier with my visit to Three Village Veterinary Hospital! I just recently moved to New York and have been extremely nervous in choosing a new veterinarian for my dog (he’s super stubborn and can be a real handful). I called Three Village Veterinary Hospital and right off the bat Dr. Sophia Was fantastic! She really took the time to dive into Huxley’s history with me, including his anxiousness about vet visits. Hearing Dr. Sophia ask all the right questions reassured me that Huxley was in good hands.

    Huxley came out of his appointment with a bill of clean health and a ton of new friends in the office staff, I couldn’t believe how happy he was! I am so glad that I was recommended to Three Village Veterinary Hospital and feel incredibly relieved to have found a fantastic new team that I can trust Huxley with. I HIGHLY recommend!""
    Michelle G
  • ""I would never go to another place but this one, even if I had to travel. best professional understanding point on doctors there. they opened their doors and stayed open just for me after hours. They had so much empathy & helped me make the right decision in a short time. I recieved a hand written card from them a couple of days after my visit, which made me cry. I trust them and respect all of them 100% my entire will be taken our pets theres. I cant thank them enough""
  • "We've been with TVVH for over 25 years. Could not imagine going elsewhere. In addition to their professional expertise is the consistent human element; their very real kindness and caring. Office staff, technicians and doctors all are exceptional."
    Linda B
  • "The staff and doctors are amazing. The older my Shih Tzu gets the more difficult and snappy he has become. Your doctors and staff are kind, gentle, and professional. You don't make me feel like I have a bad dog or I raised him wrong. I feel you care not just for me dog but for me (who can be a bit neurotic about my dog). Your tech staff and doctors...even the front desk staff are the best!!"
    Rebecca D
  • "I not only use Three Village Veterinary for my personal animals, but frequently recommend them to my grooming customers as well. I trust them explicitly and value their professionalism, but above all their compassion... all the doctors there are great & the fact that they put up with my MANY emergencies (& my neurosis) makes them my fav. Love you guys <3"
    Melissa V