Eardrum, Ruptured

General Illness Information

Medical Term:
EARDRUM, RUPTURED

Common Name: Perforated eardrum

Description: A hole in the thin membrane (tympanic membrane) that separates the inner ear from the outer ear.

Causes: The eardrum may be perforated when a sharp object is inserted in the ear, such as: a cotton swab or paper clip to clean the ear or relieve an itch; or by an object accidentally entering the ear, such as an unseen low-hanging twig on a tree or a thrown pencil. The eardrum may also be perforated by a sudden increase in inward pressure in the ear, such as with a slap; a swimming or diving accident; a nearby explosion. Other causes of a perforated eardrum are – a middle ear infection ; a sudden outward pressure or suction, such as with a kiss over the ear.

Prevention:

  • Perforation of the eardrum can be prevented by avoiding trauma to the ears, and that is by not putting any objects into the ear canal, such as Q-tips, hair clips etc.
  • The other precautions are – 1)avoiding injuries that may cause a rupture (see causes) and 2) obtaining prompt medical treatment for middle-ear infections.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Sudden pain in the ear.
  • Bleeding or pus discharge from the ear.
  • Partial hearing loss.
  • Ringing in the ear.
  • Dizziness or vertigo.
  • Occasionally, perforation causes relief to earache (in cases of ear infection).

Risk Factors

  • Recent middle-ear infection.
  • Head injury.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis is verified by otoscope examination of the ear. Also, culture of the fluid from the ear may be done.

General Measures:

  • Treatment involves – medication to prevent or treat infection and supportive care for pain.
  • Don’t blow your nose, if possible. If you must, blow gently.
  • Keep the ear canal dry. Don’t swim, take showers or get caught in the rain
  • Microsurgery (tympanoplasty) to repair the perforation if it doesn’t heal spontaneously. In most cases the eardrum heals spontaneously without further treatment. If it is not healed in 2 months, then tympanoplasty may be needed.
  • If perforation of the eardrum is associated with persistent hearing loss and vertigo- then the patient should be hospitalized and be assessed by an otolaryngologist , as the patient may need emergency surgery.

Medications:

  • Antibiotics to prevent or treat infections.
  • Pain relievers. For minor pain, you may use non-prescription drugs such as acetaminophen.

Activity:

Resume your normal activities as soon as symptoms improve.

Diet:

No special diet.

Possible Complications :

  • Ear infection, with fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Significant blood loss (rare).
  • Meningitis (rare).
  • Mastoiditis (infection of the mastoid bone situated just behind the ear).
  • Permanent hearing loss (rare).

Prognosis

If the ruptured eardrum does not become infected, it will usually repair itself in 2 months. If it becomes infected, the infection is curable with treatment, and hearing is usually not affected permanently.

If the perforation does not heal, surgery is needed.

Other

‘Nothing Specified’.