There is a hole or opening in the eardrum when there is a ruptured eardrum. Eardrums are thin pieces of tissue that separate the outer and middle ear. A damaged eardrum may cause hearing loss.
What causes it
It is possible for an ear infection to rupture an eardrum. Children are more likely to experience this. Infections cause pus or fluid to accumulate behind the eardrum. Pressure causes the eardrum to perforate.
There are other causes of eardrum damage, including:
- Loud noises, such as gunshots, close to the ear
- During a flight, dive, or mountain drive, there may be a rapid change in ear pressure
- A foreign object in the ear
- Slaps, explosions, or other violent injuries to the ear
- Cleaning ears with cotton swabs or small objects
Signs and symptoms
Right after a ruptured eardrum, you may experience a sudden decrease in ear pain.
You may experience the following symptoms after the rupture:
- An ear discharge (may be clear, pussy, or bloody)
- Buzzing/noise in the ear
- Discomfort in the ears or earache
- Possibly partial hearing loss in the affected ear
- In severe cases, weakness of the face or dizziness may occur
Examinations and tests
Otoscopes are instruments used to examine the inner ear. For a better view, they sometimes need a microscope. An opening will be visible to the doctor if the eardrum is ruptured. Middle ear bones may also be visible.
In some cases, pus draining from the ear makes it difficult for a doctor to see the eardrum. Suctioning the ear may be necessary if pus blocks the view of the eardrum.
In order to determine the extent of hearing loss, an audiologist can perform an audiology test.
Pain in your ears can be treated at home with a few simple steps.
- To relieve discomfort, apply a warm compress to the ear.
- To ease pain, take ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
It is extremely vital to keep the ear clean and dry during the healing process.
- When showering or shampooing, place cotton balls in the ears to prevent water from entering.
- Make sure you don’t swim or put your head underwater.
Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or treat infections (oral or ear drops).
When the eardrum does not heal on its own or has large holes or ruptures, it may need to be repaired. A doctor can perform this procedure in the office or under anesthesia.
- An eardrum can be repaired using a piece of tissue taken from the patient’s own body (known as tympanoplasty). In most cases, this procedure takes 30 minutes to two hours.
- Myringoplasty involves covering the eardrum with gel or special paper to repair small holes. It usually takes 10 to 30 minutes to complete this procedure.
When it is a small hole, the eardrum usually heals on its own within two months.
As long as the rupture heals completely, there will be no hearing loss.
In rare cases, other problems can arise, including:
- Loss of hearing over time
- As a result of an infection spreading to the bone behind the ear (mastoiditis), the ear becomes tender.
- Dizziness and vertigo that persist for a long time
- Ear infections or ear drainage that persist for a long time
To discuss diagnosis and treatment options, please book an appointment with our specialist.
To learn more about eardrum perforations, please click on https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/perforated-eardrum/
Dr Ibrahim Yahli MD MRCPsych