Perforated Eardrum

A perforated eardrum can be quite painful as it's caused by a rupture or hole in the eardrum. A perforated eardrum can cause temporary hearing loss and along with occasional discharge from your ear.

The eardrum, also called tympanic membrane, is a thin layer or wall that separates your outer ear from your middle ear. The eardrum is designed to vibrate when sound waves reach the membrane. The eardrum is also there to protect the middle ear from forms of bacteria. If the eardrum is perforated, then bacteria can often get into this part of the ear. This will then result in an ear infection. Generally, the bigger the hole or rupture is in the eardrum, the greater the temporary loss of hearing will be.
The location of the perforation in the ear can also affect the level of your hearing loss. A severe loss of hearing can occur after a skull fracture that disrupts the bones in the middle ear. If an eardrum perforation is caused by a loud noise it could lead to ringing in the ear (tinnitus), along with the temporary hearing loss. This hearing loss usually improves over time and the ringing in the ear generally goes away in a few days.

It is possible to perforate your eardrum in the following ways:
  • With a cotton swab or other foreign object
  • By hitting your ear with an open hand or fist
  • After fracturing your skull and after a loud noise or explosion.
  • From an ear infection - as pressure within the middle will rise with fluid build up
If the eardrum becomes punctured from pressure due to an ear infection you may get bloody or infected drainage from the ear.

Symptoms of a perforated eardrum often include an earache or ear pain, or a sudden decrease in ear pain followed by drainage of fluid from the ear, hearing loss, or ear noise, buzzing or ringing. If you have any of these symptoms you should visit a doctor for treatment.

A perforated eardrum will usually heal by itself within about two months. You may be given antibiotics to prevent the ear from becoming infected or to treat an existing ear infection. You may also be given pain killers to lessen any ear pain. Occasionally a paper patch is placed over the eardrum to cover and protect it until the membrane heals. It may take a few patches before the perforation completely heals. If the eardrum doesn't eventually heal on its own, then surgery called tympanoplasty may be needed to fix it. When your eardrum is healing you should keep it clean and dry.

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