A perforated eardrum is caused by a hole or rupture in the eardrum, the thinmembrane that separates the outer ear canal from the middle ear. A perforatedeardrum 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 isperforated, bacteria can more easily get into this part of the ear, causingear 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 resultin 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.
The eardrum can become damaged by a direct injury. It is possible to perforate the eardrum in many ways, for example with a cotton-tipped swab or anotherforeign object, by hitting the ear with an open hand, ater a skull fracture,or after a loud explosion or other loud noise. In addition, an ear infectioncan 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, theremay 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 removedby a doctor.
Symptoms of a performated eardrum 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 physician usually diagnoses perforated eardrum by direct inspection with an otoscope. Hearing tests may reveal a hearing loss.
A perforated eardrum usually heals on its own within two months, and any hearing loss that accompanies the perforation is usually temporary. Antibiotics may be given to prevent infection or to treat an existing ear infection. Painkillers may also be given to relieve any ear pain. Occasionally, a paper patchis 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.