A hole or tear in the membrane that separates your outer ear and middle ear is known medically as a tympanic membrane rupture, but more commonly referred to as a perforated eardrum. It often heals on its own without treatment, but may lead to hearing loss in some cases. A doctor should always be consulted to ensure proper healing.
What Causes Eardrum Perforations?
Perforations of the eardrum usually result from infection or trauma.
Head injuries, accidents and sudden loud noises, such as explosions, can cause the eardrum to rupture. Inserting objects into the ears (e.g., cotton swabs or bobby pins) may also lead to a perforation. Certain disorders of the Eustachian tube can weaken the eardrums, making them prone to rupture. Ear infections cause pressure to build in the middle ear; this may also cause an eardrum perforation. Chronic infections can lead to some degree of hearing loss.
What Are the Signs of a Perforated Eardrum?
Not all eardrum perforations produce the same symptoms. Some people may be completely unaware that the eardrum has ruptured, while others experience intense pain accompanied by symptoms such as fluid discharge, ringing or buzzing in the ear, sudden hearing loss, facial weakness, and dizziness. A doctor will need to examine the ears with an instrument called an otoscope in order to visually identify a tear in the eardrum.
Most eardrum perforations heal without medical treatment. Medications can be used to manage pain, and antibiotics may be provided to prevent infection from occurring. The hole may take a few months to completely heal. You’ll be asked to keep the ear dry during this process, avoiding water to the best of your ability. For more serious ruptures, surgical procedures (tympanoplasty) may be required to repair the eardrum. A procedure known as tympanomastoidectomy involves surgery on the mastoid bone around the ear.