Tympanic Membrane Perforation
(Tympanic Membrane Perforation; Eardrum—Ruptured or Perforated; Perforated Eardrum)
Pronounced: tim-PAN-ik MEM-brayn per-fo-RAY-shunEn Español (Spanish Version)
Tympanic membrane perforation, or a ruptured eardrum, is a hole in the eardrum (tympanic membrane).
The eardrum is a very thin membrane made of tissue that separates the middle ear from the ear canal. The eardrum aids in hearing and in preventing bacteria and other foreign matter from entering the middle ear.
A ruptured eardrum may heal itself and not require treatment. Healing usually takes about a month. However, eardrums that have ruptured because of a chronic ear infection usually require treatment.
Patients with a ruptured eardrum may be at an increased risk of an ear infection, because the opening in the membrane allows bacteria to enter the middle ear and cause infection.
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Eardrums may rupture from a variety of causes, including:
- Puncture from use of a Q-tip or other device inserted in the ear canal
- Damage to the ear, such as being slapped or hit
- Pressure building up inside the middle ear (eg, scuba diving)
- Ear infections
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors increase your chance of rupturing an eardrum:
- Scuba diving
- Having an ear infection
- Receiving an injury to the ear
- Inserting objects in the ear
You may not have any symptoms. Symptoms that sometimes occur include:
- Earache, severe and increasing in its severity
- Earache, severe, then subsides and is followed by discharge from the ear
- Drainage from the ear—may have blood or pus
- Hearing loss or difficulty hearing out of the affected ear
- Buzzing or other noise in the ear
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor will examine the ear with an otoscope and look to see if the eardrum has been perforated. The perforation is sometimes difficult to see because of the thick drainage in the ear.
Doctors may also perform an audiology test to determine if any hearing loss has occurred.
While many ruptured eardrums will heal on their own, many may also require treatment to heal properly. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
For ruptured eardrums caused by ear infection, antibiotics will be administered to clear up the infection. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to prevent infections that may occur because of the perforation.
Pain relievers may also be taken to ease pain and discomfort caused by the perforation.
Applying a warm compress to the affected ear can also ease pain and discomfort. The ear should be kept dry at all times, and cotton balls should be inserted in the ear while showering. Swimming should be avoided.
If the eardrum does not heal itself, surgery may be required to repair the perforation.
American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery
New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center
BC Health Guide
Canadian Academy of Audiology
Ruptured eardrum. Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia. US National Library of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001038.htm . Accessed June 27, 2007.
Tympanic membrane perforation. Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery. Columbia University Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.entcolumbia.org/tympperf.htm . Accessed June 27, 2007.
Tympanic membrane perforation. Tympanic Membrane, Middle Ear and Mastoid Disease. Bobby R. Alford Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. Baylor College of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.bcm.edu/oto/jsolab/tm_me_mastoid/tympanicmembrane.htm . Accessed June 27, 2007.
Last reviewed April 2008 by Elie Edmond Rebeiz, MD, FACS
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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