A ruptured eardrum, also known as a tympanic membrane perforation, is a tear or hole in the tissue that separates your ear canal from your middle ear. While ruptured eardrums can usually heal on their own within a few weeks, they sometimes require a patch or surgery to repair. Risks include hearing loss (either temporary or permanent) and vulnerability to infections.
What Are the Symptoms of a Ruptured Eardrum?
If you rupture your eardrum, you may experience…
- Ear pain that subsides quickly
- Mucus-like, pus-filled or blood-tinted drainage from the ear
- Hearing loss
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
What Causes a Ruptured Eardrum?
There are many possible ways to rupture your eardrum. Common ones include:
- Middle ear infection. With this type of infection, fluids accumulate in the middle ear, and enough pressure can cause the eardrum to rupture.
- Foreign objects. It is all too easy to puncture your eardrum with a cotton swab, bobby pin or any other object that is inserted into the ear when cleaning or by accident. Small children may also rupture their eardrums during unsupervised play if they stick a small toy or crayon in their ear.
- Head trauma. If you experience a blow to the head, it may cause dislocation of or damage to the middle and inner ear structures, eardrum included.
- Barotrauma. This is stress exerted on the eardrum when pressure in the ear and in the environment are unbalanced. This is usually caused by air pressure changes associated with air travel, but could also occur when scuba diving or if the ear is blasted with an airbag.
- Loud sounds. It’s somewhat well-known that a loud blast can rupture the eardrum; while this is actually pretty rare, there are other ways loud blasts can cause damage to your hearing system.
So, Is a Ruptured Eardrum Serious?
In most cases, no, a ruptured eardrum is not terribly serious. However, it’s still important to see a doctor right away if you suspect you blew out your eardrum, or else complications can arise, including permanent hearing loss, bacterial infection or middle ear cysts. For more information or to schedule an appointment with an expert ear physician, call Hampton Roads ENT today.