Ruptured eardrum is a hole or tear in the skin-like tissue that separates the ear canal and middle ear. The eardrum is the part of the ear that receives vibrations from sound to allow hearing. Ruptured eardrums are most common in children.
Factors responsible for a ruptured eardrum
- Ear infection within the middle ear (acute otitis media)
- Injury to the side of the head as a result of a sudden and forceful strike to the head
- Sticking objects in the ear that travel too far down in the ear canal and can puncture the eardrum, such as a cotton swab or bobby pin
- Sudden change in air pressure
- Skull fracture
- Loud noise caused by an explosion
A ruptured eardrum is often caused by a middle ear infection. With an infection fluid develops behind the drum creating pain and discomfort. This fluid build-up can create a small rupture of the drum allowing fluid to drain from the ear, appearing as pus. Bleeding may also occur. The ruptured eardrum may also cause temporary hearing loss as a result of the hole in the drum and the drainage.
How is a ruptured eardrum diagnosed?
An ENT specialist
may identify holes or tears in the eardrum by using various methods:
- Otoscope: A lighted instrument used to view the ear canal
- Audiology exam: A test that measures hearing and ear drum mobility
- Fluid sample: Fluid may be taken if you experience draining from the ear
Ear drops or oral medication (antibiotics) may be prescribed. In most cases, healing of the eardrum occurs within two months. Usually, hearing loss (if any) lasts a short time. Some rare complications of a ruptured eardrum include:
- Long-term hearing loss
- Long-term vertigo
- Long-term dizziness
- Infection that can spread in the ear
If an eardrum does not heal after two months of observation, an ENT specialist may perform a simple repair called a myringoplasty to help aid the healing process. This procedure is used to repair small tears in an eardrum and consists of a small patch placed in or on the hole. If the tear does not heal properly or is taking too long to heal, a surgery known as a tympanoplasty may be required. Tympanoplasty is a more formal procedure that repairs a damaged ear drum
Care during treatment
- It is of the utmost importance that during your treatment you do not get any water into the ear canal.
- You can use a cotton swab with Vaseline and take a bath to ensure this.
- You can also place a warm towel or heating pad over the ear to reduce the discomfort and pain.
- Do not clean your ears until your doctor says so. This is also very important, as it can cause damage during the healing process.
- Avoid blowing your nose, as the pressure thus created can affect the eardrum.
- Ask your ENT doctor about which medicines you can take to relieve the pain.
How to prevent a ruptured eardrum?
- First of all, avoid putting any foreign objects into your ear - especially avoid pins or pointed objects, as they will surely cause harm.
- If you are suffering from a middle ear infection, get treatment for it immediately.
- You can protect your ears during a flight by using pressure equalizing ear plugs or by chewing gum during the ascent or the descent of the flight. Also, if you have a cold or congestion, avoid flying.
- Protect your ears from loud noises. You can wear ear plugs or ear muffs to do so. Reduce the volume of the walkman, iPod, or the television. Long term use of headphones must be avoided at all costs.
Proper care is necessary for any kind of health disorder. If you experience any of the symptoms above, get your condition treated by an ENT doctor as soon as possible.