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Ruptured Eardrum

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The eardrum, or tympanic membrane, is a very thin drum-like tissue separating the ear canal from the middle ear. This tissue helps prevent bacteria from entering the ear and facilitates hearing. When the eardrum has a hole or tear, you may be prone to infections or other injury, and you may experience hearing loss.

Ruptured Eardrum Causes

The causes of a perforated eardrum usually result from sudden trauma, inserting a device in the ear, damage to the ear, pressure building up inside the middle ear or a chronic ear infection. Infections may result from viruses, bacteria or fungi, which cause pressure to build up and stretch the eardrum. When the eardrum continues to stretch, it eventually ruptures.

Trauma may also cause the perforation, such as a fall on the side of the head.

Other, more rare forms of eardrum perforation can come from blast waves, rapid changes in pressure from air travel or SCUBA diving, lightning blasts, or sports injuries.

The risk of rupturing the eardrum is higher if you have injured the ear, have an ear infection, insert object such as cotton swabs in the ear, or engage in SCUBA diving, which can create pressure inside the ear.

Ruptured Eardrum Symptoms

Some individuals have no symptoms from a ruptured eardrum, but symptoms you may have include:

  • Earache which is severe and increasingly intense.
  • Earache that subsides and is following by discharge.
  • Blood or pus draining from the ear.
  • Hearing loss out of the affected ear.
  • Buzzing or ringing sounds in the ear.
  • A dizzy, spinning sensation, known as vertigo.


During your physical examination of the ear at West Medical, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. The exam consists of looking in the ear with an otoscope to check for perforation. Sometimes it may be difficult to detect if there is thick drainage from the ear.

If you have associated hearing loss, your doctor may also perform an audiology test.

Ruptured Eardrum Treatment

Sometimes perforated eardrums heal within a few weeks after rupture with no medical intervention. If you require treatment for proper healing, your treatment options include:

  • Medication - Antibiotics are administered for patients whose eardrum has ruptured due to an infection. Pain relievers may be taken to ease discomfort.
  • Eardrum Patch - Applying a chemical to the edges of the tear which will stimulate growth before applying a paper patch. These materials act as a bridge and allow the edges of the hole to grow together.
  • Compression - Warm compresses to ease pain and discomfort. However, the ear should be kept dry at all times, and cotton should be inserted in the ears to keep them dry while showering.

If the eardrum still does not heal on its own, it may require surgery known as tympanoplasty. In this outpatient procedure, a tiny patch of your own tissue is grafted onto the ruptured area in the eardrum. This procedure has a high success rate in permanently closing the perforation and improving hearing.

Benefits of closing a ruptured eardrum include prevention of water entering the ear during shower, bathing or swimming improved hearing and diminished tinnitus. It may also prevent the chance of developing cholesteatoma (a skin cyst) which can result in chronic infections.

Prevention For Ruptured Eardrums

Some of the causes of a perforated eardrum can be avoided with certain precautions:

  • Seek prompt treatment for an ear infection.
  • Avoid air travel or SCUBA diving if you have sinusitis or a cold. If you must fly or SCUBA dive, attempt to equalize pressure building up in the inner ear by pinching your nose and swallowing air.
  • Never put anything in the ear, including cotton swabs. The ear is self-cleaning and does not require manual cleaning.
  • Wear proper ear protection such as earplugs.
  • If you have a foreign object stuck in the ear, do not try to remove it yourself, as this can make the problem worse. Seek medical care to have any foreign objects properly removed.

Don't go through the constant pain and difficulty of a ruptured eardrum. If you are interested in learning more about the causes and symptoms of a ruptured eardrum, as well as treatment options in Los Angeles, please call West Medical at (855) 690-0565 and one of our representatives will be happy to address any of your questions, comments, or concerns.

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