Everything You Need to Know About Perforated Eardrum

Since childhood, we get instructed innumerable times not to put objects into our ears that are too small in size. But that doesn’t stop many of us from removing earwax with a preferably small or sharp object, a cotton swab — or sometimes even keys and pens.

While it may feel good momentarily, you may end up doing more harm than good.

Our ears are essentially self-cleaning organs. You can’t get the wax out by sticking a cotton swab in there. In fact, you may simply push the wax deeper into your ear canal, potentially damaging your inner ear tissues, which can ultimately cause you an eardrum burst or a perforated eardrum.

What is a perforated eardrum?

The eardrum is a thin piece of tissue that separates the ear canal from the middle ear (the space behind the eardrum) and is essential for sound transmission. This thin tissue is known as the tympanic membrane. Although the tympanic membrane is tough and flexible, it is prone to damage.

A perforated eardrum occurs when the membrane is perforated or ruptured. As a result, the damage can cause a hole or opening in the ear drum. This is a painful condition that can make the patient dizzy, as well as experience hearing loss and repeated ear discharge and infection.

If you suffer a perforated eardrum, it may heal on its own within a few weeks if kept dry and not infected. However, in some cases, treatment is required.

Perforated Eardrum

What can cause a perforated eardrum?

Several factors can cause a ruptured eardrum.

The following are the most common causes:

Too loud noises – Sudden exposure to loud noises can rupture your eardrum. Music, firecrackers, and gunshots are all common causes. Even noisy toys can be harmful to your children’s ears! Hence, experts advise wearing hearing protection, When exposed to noise at or above 80 decibels.

Infection of the middle ears – During infections, there is a high possibility of fluid getting trapped in your middle ear and subsequently resulting in perforated eardrum. 

Barotrauma – Barotrauma is a sudden change in pressure experienced by scuba divers and airline passengers. It can impair the Eustachian tube’s ability to regulate pressure between the middle and outer ears, resulting in a vacuum effect in which the eardrum is stretched and pulled to the point of perforation.

Head injuries – Severe head injuries can dislodge the small bones and structures within your middle ear, causing eardrum damage.

What are the symptoms of a perforated eardrum?

The rigorousness of the symptoms depends on the size of the tear or hole in the ear drum.

If you have an eardrum rupture, you may notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Acute ear pain. However, this can vanish as quickly as it appeared.
  • Hearing impairment in the affected ear
  • Ear discharge. This may occasionally be tinged with blood
  • Weird sounds, buzzing, or ringing in the ear (Tinnitus)
  • A plugged-up feeling in the ear
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Whistling sound in the ear. This is most noticeable when you blow your nose.
Perforated Eardrum

How is a perforated eardrum diagnosed?

The ENT doctor will use an otoscope to look inside your ear. For a better view, they may need to use a microscope. The doctor will notice an opening in the eardrum if it is ruptured. The middle ear bones may also be visible.

The presence of pus in the ear may make it difficult for the doctor to see the eardrum. If pus is present and obstructing the view of the eardrum, the doctor may need to suction the ear.

Audiology testing can determine how much hearing loss has occurred.

How is a perforated eardrum treated?

As mentioned earlier, most eardrum bursts heal on their own, but if you encounter persisting pain and symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

In case the damage is controllable through medicines, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics (oral or ear drops) in order to treat an infection and prevent it from getting worse.

  • Tympanoplasty: For a larger hole in the eardrum, this tympanoplasty procedure involves grafting a small patch of your own tissue over the hole. It is typically performed under general anesthesia.

    Patching: For smaller holes in the eardrum, the doctor will apply a small patch to the hole in the eardrum. It is possible to perform it under local anesthesia.

  • Try keeping the affected ear dry all the time
  • Place something soft and warm against the ear to help relieve discomfort
  • Control pain with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Avoid blowing your nose

Seek an appropriate line of treatment for your perforated eardrum

Our physician, Dr. Mustafa Kapadia, is an ENT specialist with global clinical practice. He is a well-known, highly regarded, and gifted best ENT specialist in Dubai. With over 10 years of experience, he is a board-certified surgeon. He has a lot of professional exposure and training in Endoscopic Ear Surgery and performs Tympanoplasty surgery without taking any visible ear incision scar. He can accurately assess the extent of the rupture, tailoring a treatment plan that will help preserve your hearing.

Schedule an appointment to discuss your case.