A ruptured eardrum is a sudden phenomenon, a patient may feel intense pain in the ear. There are cases where a patient does not feel anything. This is so because the perforation does not always cause problems. The condition is also called a perforated eardrum or tympanic membrane perforation.
This condition may result in complications such as middle ear infections and hearing loss. It may also require surgery to repair the eardrum. But if you protect the ear from further contamination, a ruptured eardrum can heal on its own without any home-remedy or treatment within a couple of months.
What is a perforated eardrum or ruptured eardrum?
A tear in the thin membrane which is also called the tympanic membrane. It separates the outer ear from the inner ear; the tear is perforation of the ear. Evidently, the eardrum has 2 important functions, it senses vibration and converts the vibrations into nerve impulses that go to the brain.
It also protects the middle ear from bacteria, water as well as foreign objects. In general, the middle ear is sterile. But when the eardrum is ruptured, bacteria can get into the middle ear. It can develop an infection called otitis media.
Causes of a ruptured or perforated eardrum
Actually, there can be many reasons for an eardrum to get damaged. The most common cause of an ear infection is pressure builds up and the same pushes against the eardrum. When the pressure continues to increase, it may perforate the eardrum. If that’s the case, you are likely to notice a sudden pain and pressure from the infection.
Another reason can be poking the eardrum with a foreign object, swab or a bobby pin. Also, kids can puncture their own eardrum (maybe while playing) by putting a stick or a small toy in their ear. In some cases, the pressure inside the ear and the pressure outside the ear are not equal; the same is called barotrauma.
A head injury or a slap near the ear may result in the eardrum to rupture. Additionally, an acoustic trauma may be from sudden loud noise such as an explosion or a sudden blast of loud music.
Symptoms of a ruptured eardrum
It has been reported that a lot of people don’t notice any symptoms at all. Some may need to go to the ENT clinic a couple of days after the discomfort begins. Some patients report a feeling that something’s not quite right with the ear.
There is a condition which is unusual but not unheard of, air comes out of the ear when a patient of perforated eardrum blow their nose. Exerting a lot of force while blowing your nose may cause air to rise up, that can fill the space in the middle ear. Other symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include:
- Sudden ear pain or a sudden decrease in ear pain
- Discharge from the ear that may be bloody, clear, or resembles pus
- Ear noise or buzzing
- Partial or complete hearing loss
- Episodic ear infections
- Facial weakness or dizziness
Diagnosis of ear disorders
If you have any of the symptoms of a ruptured eardrum, make an appointment with the best ENT specialist. The best ENT specialist uses the most advanced & latest medical & surgical equipment to ensure the quality of care.
An ENT specialist may use an otoscope, it is an instrument that’s used to look inside the ear with a light. Generally, if there is a hole in the eardrum, the doctor can see it. There can be a lot of earwax or drainage, the same may deter the doctor from clearly seeing the eardrum.
In such cases, the doctor is required to clean the ear canal. In a few cases, a doctor may use a rubber bulb attached to the otoscope to blow a puff of air into the ear. If the eardrum is fine, it will move when the air hits it; if the same is ruptured, it won’t.
An ENT specialist may test the hearing to decide how much effect the ruptured eardrum has had on your hearing. The doctor may ask for an audiology test, which uses a series of tones you listen to with headphones to restrict your level of hearing.
Prevention of Ruptured Eardrum
The two important steps you can take to prevent the condition is to avoid putting any object into your ear and to treat ear infections promptly. It’s also important to see an ENT specialist for removal of a foreign object rather than try to remove it yourself.
Ruptured eardrum treatment
There is no specific treatment, the majority of ruptured eardrums heal within 2 – 3 months. An ENT specialist may prescribe an antibiotic if the ruptured eardrum is causing pain. Also, try using over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen as well a warm compress may be applied to relieve discomfort.
While the eardrum heals, a patient needs to keep the ear dry, away from water. That means no swimming until the doctor says the eardrum is healed. The patient also needs to use a shower cap or use cotton coated with petroleum jelly when you shower to keep water out. Other precautions may include:
- Taking only the prescribed medicine
- Protecting the ear from cold air
- Avoiding blowing your nose while the ear heals
Why is surgery better?
A tympanic membrane perforation or ruptured eardrum will usually heal itself. If a hole is formed, the body will try to heal it. if the perforation does not heal on its own, if the size of perforation has not gotten any smaller in about two months, it needs advanced treatment.
Eardrum perforations are usually healed with minor surgery, performed as an outpatient procedure that takes a couple of hours. Currently, some advanced ENT clinics are pioneering a new technique for repairing tympanic membrane perforations or perforated eardrum or a ruptured eardrum.
This allows repairing of the entire hole through the ear canal without any visible incisions. This results in quick healing, less pain, and minimal scar tissue. The primary goal of surgery is to close the opening in the eardrum. This protects the middle ear from the outside environment or foreign body materials.
Also Read: Most Common Causes of Middle Ear Infection