Definition

What is ruptured eardrum?

A ruptured eardrum, also known as tympanic membrane perforation, is a hole or tear in the thin tissue that separates your ear canal from your middle ear (eardrum).

A ruptured eardrum can result in hearing loss. A ruptured eardrum can also make your middle ear vulnerable to infections or injury. A ruptured eardrum usually heals within a few weeks without treatment. Sometimes, however, a ruptured eardrum requires a procedure or surgical repair to heal.

How common is ruptured eardrum?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of ruptured eardrum?

The common symptoms of ruptured eardrum are:

  • 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

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Call your doctor if you experience any of the signs or symptoms of a ruptured eardrum or pain or discomfort in your ears.

Your middle and inner ears are composed of delicate mechanisms that are sensitive to injury or disease. Prompt and appropriate treatment is important to preserve your hearing.

Causes

What causes ruptured eardrum?

Causes of a ruptured, or perforated, eardrum may include:

  • 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 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 ruptured 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.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for ruptured eardrum?

Please consult with your doctor for more information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is ruptured eardrum diagnosed?

Your doctor may suggest these followings to diagnose your condition.

  • Laboratory tests. If there’s discharge from your ear, your doctor may order a laboratory test or culture to detect a bacterial infection of your middle ear.
  • Tuning fork evaluation. Tuning forks are two-pronged, metal instruments that produce sounds when struck. Simple tests with tuning forks can help your doctor detect hearing loss. A tuning fork evaluation may also reveal whether hearing loss is caused by damage to the vibrating parts of your middle ear (including your eardrum), damage to sensors or nerves of your inner ear, or damage to both.
  • A tympanometer uses a device inserted into your ear canal that measures the response of your eardrum to slight changes in air pressure. Certain patterns of response can indicate a perforated eardrum.
  • Audiology exam. If other hearing tests are inconclusive, your doctor may order a series of strictly calibrated tests conducted in a soundproof booth that measure how well you hear sounds at different volumes and pitches (audiology exam).

How is ruptured eardrum treated?

Most perforated eardrums heal without treatment within a few weeks. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops if there’s evidence of infection. If the tear or hole in your eardrum doesn’t heal by itself, treatment will involve procedures to close the perforation. These may include:

  • Eardrum patch. If the tear or hole in your eardrum doesn’t close on its own, an ENT specialist may seal it with a patch. With this office procedure, your ENT doctor may apply a chemical to the edges of the tear to stimulate growth and then apply a patch over the hole. The procedure may need to be repeated more than once before the hole closes.
  • If a patch doesn’t result in proper healing or your ENT doctor determines that the tear isn’t likely to heal with a patch, he or she may recommend surgery. The most common surgical procedure is called tympanoplasty. Your surgeon grafts a tiny patch of your own tissue to close the hole in the eardrum. This procedure is done on an outpatient basis, meaning you can usually go home the same day unless medical anesthesia conditions require a longer hospital stay.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage ruptured eardrum?

A ruptured eardrum usually heals on its own within weeks. In some cases, healing takes months. Until your doctor tells you that your ear is healed, protect it by doing the following:

  • Keep your ear dry. Place a waterproof silicone earplug or cotton ball coated with petroleum jelly in your ear when showering or bathing.
  • Refrain from cleaning your ears. Give your eardrum time to heal completely.
  • Avoid blowing your nose. The pressure created when blowing your nose can damage your healing eardrum.

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.

Review Date: October 19, 2017 | Last Modified: October 19, 2017

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