A ruptured or perforated eardrum is an opening in the tympanic membrane (eardrum).
The tympanic membrane (eardrum) separates the outer ear from the middle ear. The eardrum vibrates when sound waves strike it.
Bones and nerve endings in the middle and inner parts of the ear then send a nerve impulse that travels to the brain. When the eardrum is damaged, the hearing process is interrupted.
Ear infections may cause a ruptured eardrum, more often in children. The infection causes pus or fluid to build up behind the eardrum. As the pressure increases, the eardrum may break open or rupture.
Damage to the eardrum can also occur from:
The doctor will look in your ear with an instrument called an otoscope. If the eardrum is perforated, the doctor will see an opening in it, and may even see the bones of the middle ear.
Sometimes it is hard for the doctor to see the eardrum because of drainage (pus) from the ear.
Audiology testing can measure the extent of hearing loss.
The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and prevent or treat infection.
Putting warmth on the ear may help relieve discomfort. Keep the ear clean and dry while it is healing. Place cotton balls in the ear while showering or shampooing to prevent water from entering the ear. Avoid swimming or putting your head underneath the water.
Antibiotics (oral or ear drops) may be used to prevent infection or to treat an existing infection. Analgesics (painkillers), including over-the-counter medications, may be used to relieve pain.
Sometimes the health care provider may place a patch over the eardrum to encourage healing. Surgical repair of the eardrum (tympanoplasty) may be needed if the eardrum does not heal on its own.
A ruptured or perforated eardrum may be uncomfortable, but it usually heals by itself within 2 months. Any hearing loss is usually temporary.
Call your health care provider if you:
Do not insert objects into the ear canal, even to clean it. Foreign objects should only be removed by a health care provider. Have ear infections treated promptly.
Tympanic membrane perforation; Eardrum - ruptured or perforated; Perforated eardrum