Perforated Eardrum

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Perforated Eardrum



A perforated eardrum exists when there is a hole or rupture in the eardrum, the thin membrane that separates the outer ear canal from the middle ear. A perforated eardrum may cause temporary hearing loss and occasional discharge.


The eardrum (tympanic membrane) is a thin wall that separates the outer ear from the middle ear, vibrating when sound waves strike the membrane. The middle ear is connected to the nose by the Eustachian tube.
In addition to conducting sound, the eardrum also protects the middle ear from bacteria. When it is perforated, bacteria can more easily get into this part of the ear, causing ear infections.
In general, the larger the hole in the eardrum, the greater the temporary loss of hearing. The location of the perforation also affects the degree of hearing loss. Severe hearing loss may follow a skull fracture that disrupts the bones in the middle ear. Eardrum perforation caused by a loud noise may result in ringing in the ear (tinnitus), in addition to a temporary hearing loss. Over time, this hearing loss improves and the ringing usually fades in a few days.

Causes and symptoms

The eardrum can become damaged by a direct injury. It is possible to perforate the eardrum:
  • with a cotton-tipped swab or another foreign object
  • by hitting the ear with an open hand
  • after a skull fracture
  • after a loud explosion or other loud noise
In addition, an ear infection can rupture the eardrum as pressure within the middle ear rises when fluid builds up. If the eardrum is punctured by pressure from an ear infection, there may be infected or bloody drainage from the ear.
Rarely, a small hole may remain in the eardrum after a pressure-equalizing tube falls out or is removed by a doctor.
Symptoms include an earache or pain in the ear, which may be severe, or a sudden decrease in ear pain, followed by ear drainage of clear, bloody, or pus-filled fluid, hearing loss, or ear noise/buzzing.


A doctor can diagnose a perforated eardrum by direct inspection with an otoscope. Hearing tests may reveal a hearing loss.


A perforated eardrum usually heals by itself within two months. Antibiotics may be given to
A perforated eardrum is caused by a hole or rupture in the eardrum, the thin membrane that separates the outer ear canal from the middle ear. It may result in temporary hearing loss and occasional discharge.
A perforated eardrum is caused by a hole or rupture in the eardrum, the thin membrane that separates the outer ear canal from the middle ear. It may result in temporary hearing loss and occasional discharge.
(Illustration by Electronic Illustrators Group.)
prevent infection or to treat an existing ear infection. Painkillers can relieve any ear pain.
Sometimes, a paper patch is placed over the eardrum until the membrane heals. Three or four patches may be needed before the perforation closes completely. If the eardrum does not heal on its own, surgical repair (tympanoplasty) may be necessary.

Key terms

Eustachian tube — The air duct that connects the area behind the nose to the middle ear.
Otoscope — An instrument used to examine the ear, to inspect the outer ear canal and the eardrum, and to detect diseases in the middle ear.
The ear should be kept clean and dry while the eardrum heals; patients should insert cotton balls into the ear when showering or shampooing to block any water from getting into the ear. Pain in the ear may be eased by applying warm compresses.


While a perforated eardrum may be uncomfortable, it usually heals on its own. Any hearing loss that accompanies the perforation is usually temporary.


A perforated eardrum can be prevented by avoiding insertion of any object into the ear to clean it. If a foreign object becomes lodged in the ear, only a doctor should try to remove it.
Promptly treating all ear infections is another way to guard against a ruptured eardrum.



American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Inc. One Prince St., Alexandria VA 22314-3357. (703) 836-4444.
Better Hearing Institute. 515 King Street, Suite 420, Alexandria, VA 22314. (703) 684-3391.
References in periodicals archive ?
Another blow from the man in the balaclava left Gulnaz with a perforated eardrum.
A MAN has appeared in court accused of an assault where a woman was left with a perforated eardrum.
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Elsewhere at Cardiff Metropolitan University, applicants were asked whether they have had a perforated eardrum, a recent chest X-ray, foot problems, bowel complaints, varicose veins and drug or alcohol problems.
Dennison was treated for a fractured third metacarpal - a broken finger on his right hand - and for a perforated eardrum at UMass Memorial Medical Center after he was released from custody.
Also, if you put an antiseptic in a patient with a perforated eardrum, the patient is going to experience significant pain.
Somewhere out there a sound technician has a perforated eardrum.
The girl also had a perforated eardrum on the side she had been holding the phone, said the doctors, in a letter to the British Medical Journal.
The Redditch student suffered multiple bruising, two black eyes, singed hair, a broken nose, perforated eardrum and burns.
The singer whose band released their debut single Spanish Eyes this week says she started having hearing problems as a child when it was discovered she had a perforated eardrum.
Macklin eventually managed to force the former Commonwealth welterweight champion into submission at the end of the fifth round when Dixon had to retire with a suspected perforated eardrum.