What is a perforated eardrum?

A perforated eardrum is a rupture or a tear in the tympanic membrane, which is located between your outer ear and middle ear. Better known as the eardrum, the tympanic membrane vibrates in response to sound waves entering the ear. Nerve cells in the middle and inner ear transmit signals to the brain, which the brain perceives as sound.

If your eardrum ruptures, you may experience acute pain accompanied by leakage of pus (if an infection is present) and blood. Your hearing may be muffled or otherwise impaired. A perforated eardrum may be caused by an infection that leads to an accumulation of fluids or pus in your middle or inner ear. Your ear may continue to swell and the eardrum may burst upon experiencing pressure.

Sudden, dramatic shifts in air pressure, such as those experienced when flying in an airplane or scuba diving, can also cause your eardrum to burst. This is known as barotrauma and occurs from extreme pressure differences between the inside of your ear and the outside. Loud noises, such as from jackhammers and construction, fireworks, gunshots, or loud music, can cause a perforated eardrum. Sticking foreign objects in your ear can also rupture the eardrum.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have ruptured your eardrum and experience bleeding, pus leakage, and hearing loss. You should also seek immediate medical attention if the perforation is accompanied by flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, fever, sore throat, headache, cough, aches, and pains.

A ruptured eardrum that continues to produce symptoms despite treatment should be evaluated. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for a perforated eardrum but continue to experience symptoms for two months or longer.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of a perforated eardrum?

Symptoms of a perforated eardrum primarily occur in the ear but may be present in other body systems as well. You may feel immediate pain, discomfort and buzzing in the ear; pain in the face; and dizziness.... Read more about perforated eardrumsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes a perforated eardrum?

A perforated eardrum is a rupture or tear in the tympanic membrane, located between your outer ear and middle ear. It can be caused by an infection leading to the accumulation of fluids or pus in the middle or inner ear. The ear may continue to swell and the eardrum may burst upon experiencing pressure.... Read more about perforated eardrumcauses

TREATMENTS

How is a perforated eardrum treated?

Treatment for a perforated eardrum begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. Antibiotics may be prescribed if there is an infection involved or as a preventive measure against future infection. Your health care provider may patch the ear to prevent bacteria from entering and to allow the eardrum to heal.... Read more about perforated eardrumtreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Ear, Nose and Throat


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