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Ruptured Eardrum

Understanding Ruptured Eardrum: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

admin Apr 04, 2024


The eardrum refers to a thin layer of tissue that spans the opening between the ear canal and the middle ear. As sound waves hit the eardrum, it vibrates and transmits sound energy to the inner ear, permitting an individual to hear.

It’s common for an eardrum to rupture or develop a hole/perforation. The amazing news is that this condition may potentially heal on its own. Here’s what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of a ruptured eardrum.

Causes of an Eardrum Rupture

Some of the known causes of eardrum rupture are as follows:

  • Foreign Entity: An individual can damage their eardrum while using cotton swabs or other pointy objects, such as a Q-tip or bobby pin, into the ear canal to clean ears or relieve itching.
  • Direct Trauma: Experiencing an unexpected impact to the head, such as a slap or a punch, can damage the eardrums.
  • Acoustic Trauma: Being in the vicinity of an extreme pressure wave triggered by an explosion or any other loud sound can damage the eardrums. In case the intensity of sound is more than 184 dB, the eardrum ruptures. Such ruptures are commonly experienced during military operations, such as with the explosion of an IED (improvised explosive device).
  • Barotrauma: Injuries caused by elevated air or water pressure, such as during airplane flights or recreational sports such as scuba diving, can lead to eardrum damage. The eardrum can break in critical cases of ear barotrauma, causing bleeding or oozing of fluid from the ear.
  • Ear Infections (Otitis Media): They cause pus or fluid build-up behind the eardrum. With the rise in pressure, the eardrum may rupture.

Do You Know?

  • Even holding a sneeze can cause eardrum rupture. When an individual suppresses a sneeze, high pressure forms inside the respiratory system, passing through the eustachian tube and joining the middle ear and eardrum. The elevated pressure can lead to the tear of either one or both of the eardrums, leading to hearing loss.

Recognizing Symptoms of Eardrum Rupture

When eardrum rupture or perforation occurs, generally, the manifestations are instantaneous, but it is possible that an individual won’t exhibit any definite signs of rupture. The most prevalent symptoms of eardrum rupture are as follows:

  • Hearing Loss: Generally temporary and short duration, accompanied by complications, it can be a chronic side effect
  • Sharp Pain in the Ear: Usually, this occurs only at the time of perforation and doesn’t last
  • Ear Drainage: Fluids oozing out from the ear that may be bloody, clear or pus-like
  • Pain Relief: If some pressure in the inner ear is generating pain for some time, eardrum perforation can be helpful in alleviating this pain
  • Tinnitus: Can be caused by a perforated eardrum, which can happen due to exposure to loud noises

Another common manifestation that causes patients to make an appointment to have a doctor assess them is when they hear air gushing out of the ear as they blow their nose. When the eardrum is in its original state, forceful nose-blowing will cause the eardrum to dilate like a balloon from the air pressure forced through the air canal. When there is a perforation in the eardrum, however, the pressure has nowhere to augment, and patients generally hear the sound of air rushing through the perforation that is sufficiently loud for them to be concerned.

Know When to Reach Out to a Medical or Healthcare Professional

If pain and manifestations improve after the eardrum ruptures, an individual may wait until the next day to visit a healthcare professional.

Contact a healthcare professional right away after eardrum rupture if you are:

  • Feeling woozy
  • Having fever or pyrexia, usual ill feeling, or hearing loss
  • Having very critical pain or a loud ringing in the ear
  • Having an entity in the ear that does not come out
  • Experiencing any symptoms that persist more than 60 days after treatment

Treatment for Eardrum Rupture

One can take steps at home to treat ear pain.

  • Put warm compresses on the ear to aid in relieving discomfort.
  • Utilize medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease pain.
  • Keep the ear dry and clean while it is healing.
  • Place balls of cotton in the ear while taking a bath or shampooing to stop water from getting inside the ear.
  • Avoid swimming or putting your head underneath the water.

In the majority of cases, the eardrum rupture or tympanic membrane perforation will heal itself without the need for any medical intervention. The otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) may also choose to monitor the perforation over time to observe whether it is closing by itself or not. If it doesn’t close on its own, the doctor may try an in-office technique to patch the perforation. The doctor might utilize a microscope and excite the edges of the eardrum with a chemical to encourage growth. Then, a tiny patch would be placed over the hole in the eardrum.

Generally, the patch will resolve eardrum rupture, and if not successful once, the healthcare professional may attempt this procedure a few times until growth occurs. If the healthcare professional feels that a paper patch will not successfully offer what is required to mend the perforation, they may advise surgery, which can also be performed within the healthcare professional’s office. This surgery can be a 120-minute procedure that comprises what is known as tympanoplasty, involving a behind-ear cut, rebuilding of the eardrum and peripheral bones, and insertion of a tissue graft to mend a large perforation.

If an individual is experiencing any of the listed symptoms or something that could have caused a ruptured eardrum recently, they should seek medical attention immediately to avoid further complications.


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