What is perforated eardrum?
A perforated eardrum is a tear in the thin membrane that separates your outer ear from your inner ear. That membrane, known as the tympanic membrane, is made of tissue that resembles skin.
The eardrum plays two important functions in your ear. It senses vibrating sound waves and converts the vibration into nerve impulses that convey the sound to your brain. It also protects the middle ear from bacteria as well as water and foreign objects. Normally, the middle ear is sterile. But when the eardrum is perforated eardrum, bacteria can get into the middle ear and cause an infection known as otitis media.
How common is perforated eardrum?
A perforated eardrum can occur at all ages.
However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of perforated eardrum?
Some common signs and symptoms of a perforated eardrum may include:
- Ear pain that may subside quickly
- Clear, pus-filled or bloody drainage from your ear
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in your ear (tinnitus)
- Spinning sensation (vertigo)
- Nausea or vomiting that can result from vertigo
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes perforated eardrum?
It is proved that there are a great number of causes of a perforated eardrum, and these causes below are considered as the most common ones, including:
- Middle ear infection (otitis media). A middle ear infection often results in the accumulation of fluids in your middle ear. Pressure from these fluids can cause the eardrum to rupture.
- Barotrauma. Barotrauma is stress exerted on your eardrum when the air pressure in your middle ear and the air pressure in the environment are out of balance. If the pressure is severe, your eardrum can rupture. Barotrauma is most often caused by air pressure changes associated with air travel.
Other events that can cause sudden changes in pressure — and possibly a perforated eardrum — include scuba diving and a direct blow to the ear, such as the impact of an automobile air bag.
- Loud sounds or blasts (acoustic trauma). A loud sound or blast, as from an explosion or gunshot — essentially an overpowering sound wave — can cause a tear in your eardrum.
- Foreign objects in your ear. Small objects, such as a cotton swab or hairpin, can puncture or tear the eardrum.
- Severe head trauma. Severe injury, such as skull fracture, may cause the dislocation or damage to middle and inner ear structures, including your eardrum.
What increases my risk for perforated eardrum?
Children are at a higher risk of developing perforated eardrum. Sometimes children can puncture their own eardrum by putting objects such as a stick or a small toy in their ear.
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is perforated eardrum diagnosed?
If you experience any of signs or symptoms of a perforated eardrum, the doctor will perform an otoscopic exam. An otoscope is an instrument with a light that’s used to look inside the ear. In most cases, if there is a hole or tear in the eardrum, the doctor will be able to see it.
Sometimes there may be too much wax or drainage for the doctor to see clearly the eardrum. If this is the case, the doctor may clean the ear canal or prescribe eardrops for you to use to help clear it first.
Sometimes, the doctor uses a rubber bulb attached to the otoscope to blow a puff of air into the ear. If the eardrum is not ruptured, it will move when the air hits it. If it is ruptured, it won’t.
Moreover, the doctor may also test your hearing to determine how much the perforated eardrum has affected your hearing; they may use a tuning fork to test it.
The doctor may also ask for an audiology test, which uses a series of tones you listen to with headphones to determine your level of hearing. Most hearing loss due to a perforated eardrum is temporary. Normal hearing returns usually after the eardrum heals.
How is perforated eardrum treated?
Perforated eardrums don’t always need to be treated because they normally heal by themselves in a few weeks or months provided that your ear is kept dry and there’s no infection. If you have any pain or discomfort, you can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. It is noticeable that never give aspirin to children under 16.
Placing a warm flannel against the affected ear may also help relieve the pain. Furthermore, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if your perforated eardrum was caused by an infection or if there is a risk that an infection will develop while your eardrum heals.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage perforated eardrum?
You can reduce your risk of developing an infection of perforated eardrum by keeping your ear dry until it’s healed.
Remember that don’t go swimming, and you should cover your ears when having a shower.
Protect your ears from unnecessary damage by wearing protective earplugs or earmuffs in your workplace or during recreational activities if loud noise is present.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Perforated eardrum. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/ruptured-eardrum-symptoms-and-treatments#2. Accessed Mar 12, 2017.
Perforated eardrum. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ruptured-eardrum/manage/ptc-20266032 . Accessed Mar 12, 2017.
Perforated eardrum. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Perforated-eardrum/Pages/Introduction.aspx . Accessed Mar 12, 2017.
Review Date: March 12, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019