Ruptured Eardrum – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is ruptured eardrum?
A ruptured eardrum, also called tympanic membrane perforation, is a small opening or hole in the tympanic membrane. The tympanic membrane is the medical name for the eardrum. The eardrum is a thin piece of tissue that separates the outer and middle ear. Damage or perforation to the eardrum may affect hearing.
What causes ruptured eardrum?
The most common cause of ruptured eardrum is an ear infection. This occurs mostly in children. Middle ear infection causes pus or fluid to build up and pushes against the eardrum. As the pressure increases, the eardrum may rupture (break open).
Damage and eardrum rupture can also be caused by:
- A very loud noise close to the ear (e.g. a gunshot)
- Rapid pressure change (occurs when flying or scuba diving)
- Foreign objects in the ear
- Head or ear trauma
- Inserting cotton-tipped swabs or small objects into the ears to clean them
What are the symptoms of ruptured eardrum?
Sudden ear pain that decreases quickly is the main symptom of eardrum rupture.
The following symptoms may occur if the eardrum ruptures:
- Drainage from the ear
- Ear buzzing
- Ringing in the ear
- Earache or ear discomfort
- Hearing loss in the involved ear
- Weakness of the face
How is ruptured eardrum diagnosed?
The doctor will examine your ear with an instrument called an otoscope. If the eardrum is ruptured, the doctor can see an opening in it. The bones of the middle ear may also be seen during the exam. The doctor may do audiology testing to measure how much hearing has been lost.
How is ruptured eardrum treated?
A ruptured eardrum usually heals on its own within a few weeks if the rupture is small. The doctor may advise you to put warm compresses on the ear to help relieve discomfort. Taking OTC medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help to ease the pain.
As the opening in the eardrum heals, you have to keep the ear clean and dry. You must not allow water to enter your ear. Placing cotton balls in the ear while showering or shampooing will help prevent water from entering the ear. Avoiding swimming or putting your head underneath the water is advised.
Your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics ear drops to treat the infection.
Your doctor may recommend repairing the eardrum if the hole is big or if the eardrum does not heal on its own. This can be done either in the doctor’s office or under anesthesia. The doctor may do the following procedures to repair the eardrum hole:
- Tympanoplasty: This procedure involves patching the eardrum with a piece of the person’s own tissue. This procedure usually takes 2 to 3 hours.
- Myringoplasty: This procedure involves repairing smaller holes in the eardrum by placing either gel or a special paper over the eardrum. This procedure usually takes 10 to 30 minutes
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.