What is a Ruptured Eardrum? Eardrum Symptoms & Causes

Ruptured Eardrum

A hole or tear in the delicate tissue separating the ear canal from the middle ear is known as a ruptured eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation) (eardrum). An eardrum rupture can cause hearing loss. Additionally, it may increase the risk of infections in the middle ear. Without treatment, a ruptured eardrum typically recovers in a few weeks. But occasionally, healing calls for a patch or surgical fix. Keep on reading to learn more about Ruptured Eardum!

Eardrum Symptoms

The followings are some symptoms and warning indications of an eardrum rupture:

Eardum causes

A person’s eardrum may tear or perforate for several reasons, including:

  • Otitis media (middle ear infection): Otitis media frequently causes fluid to build up in the middle ear. The pressure from these fluids could cause the eardrum to rupture.
  • Barotrauma: When the air pressure in the middle ear and the outside air pressure are out of equilibrium, stress is put on the eardrum. The eardrum may rupture at extremely high pressure. Most frequently, air pressure changes related to flying produce barotrauma.
  • Other incidents, such as scuba diving and direct blows to the ear, such as the impact of an automobile airbag, can result in abrupt changes in pressure and, in some cases, a burst eardrum.
  • Loud sounds or blasts (acoustic trauma): Rarely, an eardrum tear can be brought on by a loud sound or blast, such as one from an explosion or gunfire.
  • Invading foreign items: Tiny objects like cotton swabs or hairpins can pierce or rip the eardrum.
  • Severe head trauma: The middle and inner ear structures, including the eardrum, may become dislocated or damaged in severe injuries, such as a fractured skull base.


There are two main functions of the eardrum (tympanic membrane):

  • Hearing: When sound waves hit the eardrum, it vibrates, which is the initial stage in converting sound waves into nerve impulses by the middle and inner ear structures.
  • Defense: The eardrum also serves as a line of defense, shielding the middle ear from moisture, bacteria, and other foreign objects.

Uncommon issues may arise if the eardrum ruptures, mainly if it doesn’t mend on its own after three to six months. Potential issues include:

  • Hearing loss: In most cases, hearing loss is transient and only lasts until the eardrum’s hole or tear has healed. The degree of hearing loss may vary depending on the size and location of the incision.
  • Otitis media (middle ear infection): Bacteria can enter the ear through a ruptured (perforated) eardrum. A small percentage of persons may be susceptible to persistent (recurrent or chronic) infections if a ruptured eardrum doesn’t heal. Chronic leakage and hearing loss are possible in this small group.
  • Middle ear cyst (cholesteatoma): Although highly uncommon, eardrum rupture can eventually lead to the development of this cyst in the middle ear, which is made up of skin cells and other detritus.
  • Ear-protecting earwax typically aids in the passage of ear canal material to the outer ear. The skin fragments may enter the middle ear and develop into cysts if the eardrum bursts.
  • A middle ear cyst includes proteins that can harm the bones of the middle ear and offers a welcoming environment for bacteria.


Follow these suggestions to prevent a ruptured (perforated) eardrum:

  • Seek treatment for middle ear infections: Be mindful of the symptoms, which include ear pain, fever, nasal congestion, and diminished hearing. Children with middle ear infections may exhibit fussy behavior and refuse to eat. To prevent potential eardrum damage, ask your provider for a consultation as soon as possible.
  • Protect your ears when flying: Avoid flying if you have a cold or an allergy-causing nasal or ear congestion due to an active reaction. Keep your ears clear during takeoffs and landings by using pressure-equalizing earplugs, yawning, or chewing gum.
  • Alternatively, perform the Valsalva maneuver by softly blowing your nose while squeezing your nostrils and keeping your mouth shut. Never sleep through an ascent or downhill.
  • Keep foreign things out of your ears: Never use a cotton swab, paper clip, or hairpin to scrape out extra or hardened earwax. These things are easily capable of tearing or puncturing the eardrum. Explain to your children the dangers of placing objects that aren’t their own in their ears.
  • Protect your hearing from loud noises by avoiding activities that could expose them to explosions: Wear protective earplugs or earmuffs to prevent unwanted injury to your ears if your profession or hobbies entail planned activities that generate explosive noise.

How Is a Ruptured Eardrum Diagnosed?

The doctor will perform an otoscopic examination if you exhibit any of the signs of an eardrum rupture. An otoscope contains a light used to examine the inner ear. The doctor will typically be able to see any holes or tears in the eardrum.

The doctor may not always be able to examine the eardrum clearly due to much wax or discharge. If this is the case, the doctor may recommend using eardrops to assist clear the ear canal or cleaning the ear canal. Sometimes, the medical professional will blow air into the patient’s ear using a rubber bulb linked to the otoscope. When air strikes the eardrum, it will move if it hasn’t already ruptured. It won’t if it is burst.

The doctor may use a tuning fork to test your hearing to see how much impact the ruptured eardrum has had on it. The doctor might also request an audiology exam, which measures your hearing capacity by having you listen to a series of tones through headphones. The majority of hearing loss caused by an eardrum rupture is transient. Following eardrum healing, normal hearing typically returns.

Ruptured Eardrum Treatment

A ruptured eardrum often doesn’t require special care; in most cases, they mend on their own in three months. To avoid ear infections or treat them once they have occurred, your doctor may advise taking an antibiotic orally or using eardrops. Your doctor could recommend using an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen if the ruptured eardrum hurts you. In addition, warmth can be used to ease discomfort.

You can be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor if the eardrum takes a long time to recover. The doctor might cover the eardrum with a patch. Surgery could occasionally be required to fix a ruptured eardrum. The procedure is often carried out as an outpatient. A piece of your tissue will be attached to the eardrum during the process, typically lasting a few hours, to repair the eardrum. The most frequent reasons for surgery include extensive perforations, perforations involving the eardrum’s edges, or ruptured eardrums brought on by an ear infection.

You must maintain a dry environment in the ear while the eardrum recovers. Thus, swimming and diving are prohibited until the doctor certifies that the eardrum is cured. To keep water out of your outer ear while you shower, wear a shower cap or earplugs that repel water (like swimmers wear). Other safety measures include:

  • Avoiding the use of medications other than those your doctor has prescribed in your ear
  • Taking all medicines together
  • Defending the ear against the chilled air
  • Refrain from blowing your nose while your ear is healing

When to see a doctor

The middle and inner ears comprise delicate, disease- and injury-sensitive tissues. It’s critical to identify the source of ear problems and ascertain whether an eardrum rupture has occurred. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any warning signs or symptoms of an eardrum rupture.


In Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, ACE Ent is the top hospital for surgical and medical treatment of the ear, nose, and throat. He specialized in endoscopic sinus surgery, stitch-less ear surgery, snore-correction surgery, mouth surgery, and skull base surgery, in addition to primary ENT surgery. One of the leading candidates for minimal-access ENT surgery is Dr. Simple Bhadania. The B.J. Medical College in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, is where Dr. Simple Bhadania received her M.S. in ENT (Oto-rhino-laryngology). She received head and neck cancer training at Ahmedabad’s Gujarat Cancer Research Institute (GCRI).