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Eardrum Perforation

(Perforated Eardrum; Punctured Eardrum; Ruptured Eardrum)


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Last full review/revision Jul 2020| Content last modified Jul 2020
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Your eardrum is a thin membrane (like skin) inside your ear. It's stretched tight like a drum and vibrates when sound hits it. The vibrations go into your middle and inner ear and are turned into nerve signals. The nerve signals go to your brain so you hear the sound. Your eardrum also keeps water and dirt out to protect the tiny bones inside your ear.

What is an eardrum perforation?

Inside the Ear

Inside the Ear

An eardrum perforation is a hole in your eardrum. It's also called a ruptured eardrum.

  • Ear infections are the most common cause of eardrum perforations

  • Symptoms include sudden ear pain and sometimes bleeding from your ear, hearing loss, or noise in your ear

  • Your doctor can see an eardrum perforation by looking in your ear with a handheld light

  • Usually, your eardrum heals on its own

What causes an eardrum perforation?

Causes of an eardrum perforation include:

  • A sudden change in pressure (such as from an explosion, a slap on your ear, diving underwater, or flying in an airplane)

  • Poking something into your ear (such as a cotton swab or pencil)

People sometimes try to remove ear wax with a cotton swab or other object, such as a bobby pin, or pencil. Don't do this, because it'll just push the earwax deeper in your ear and may injure your eardrum.

What are the symptoms of an eardrum perforation?

Your symptoms depend on what caused the perforation.

An ear infection that perforates actually relieves the pain of the ear infection. An ear infection is painful because fluid or pus builds up behind your eardrum. When your eardrum gets a hole in it (perforates), the fluid drains out, lessening your pain.

If pressure change or poking something in your ear caused the perforation, you will have:

  • Sudden severe pain

  • Sometimes a little bleeding

What are the complications of an eardrum perforation?

You may not have any complications or symptoms after an eardrum perforation. But some people have:

  • Hearing loss

  • Noise in your ear (tinnitus)

  • A feeling like you're spinning or moving (vertigo)

If water or dirt gets through the perforation, you might get an ear infection.

How can my doctor tell if I have an eardrum perforation?

Doctors can see an eardrum perforation by looking in your ear with a handheld light. Sometimes, doctors do a hearing test to see if the perforation affected your hearing.

How do doctors treat an eardrum perforation?

You need to keep your ear dry, but you may not need any other treatment. Many perforations heal on their own.

If your eardrum doesn't heal within 2 months or if you had a severe ear injury, you may need surgery to repair your eardrum.

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