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Ruptured Eardrum (Perforated Eardrum)

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An opening or tear in the fragile tissue that separates your ear channel from your central ear is called a ruptured eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation). A ruptured eardrum can cause hearing loss and can also make your middle ear prone to infections.

What are the symptoms of a ruptured eardrum?

A punctured  eardrum can cause the following symptoms and negative effects:

  • Earache that may come and go away quickly
  • Pus or blood-like discharge from the ear
  • Hearing issues
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo
  • Dizziness along with a feeling of queasiness or vomiting

What causes a ruptured eardrum?

The main causes of a ruptured eardrum are,

  1. Otitis media

The accumulation of fluid in your center ear is a common symptom of a middle  ear infection. The eardrum can break as a result of the pressure exerted by these liquids.


When air pressure in the middle ear and the air pressure of the environment are out of balance and there is pressure exerted on your eardrum , it can rupture.  

acoustic trauma (loud sounds or blasts): A blast or loud sound from an explosion or a gunshot (basically an overpowering sound wave) may, although rarely, cause a tear in the eardrum.

Foreign objects in your ear: Small objects like hairpin or a cotton swab, can tear or puncture the eardrum.

Severe head trauma: Serious injury like a skull base fracture might cause damage to or dislocation of middle and inner ear structures, including the eardrum

When to see a doctor for a ruptured eardrum?

Call your doctor immediately, if you experience any sign or symptoms of ruptured eardrum. Your inner and middle ears are made-up of delicate structures that are sensitive to disease or injury. It is important to try and find out the cause of the ear symptoms and identify whether a ruptured eardrum has occurred.

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What are the risk factors associated with a ruptured eardrum?

The risk of an eardrum puncture is increased by several factors. Not everyone with risk factors will have their eardrum perforated. The following are the risk factors that may lead to a ruptured eardrum:

  • Jumping, flying, or other workouts involving rapid pressure  changes
  • Ear infections
  • Exposure to loud noises, such as loud, pounding firecrackers or music
  • Inserting unfamiliar objects into the ears
  • Medical procedure on the ear in the past

What are the possible complications of a ruptured eardrum?

  • Hearing loss: It is usually very temporary, lasting just until the tear or opening in your eardrum heals.
  • Infection in the middle ear (otitis media): Bacteria can enter the ear if the eardrum ruptures (perforates). Some people may get continuous (recurrent or chronic) infections if their perforated eardrum does not heal.
  • Cyst in the middle ear (cholesteatoma): A cyst, which is made up of skin cells and other debris, can form in your middle ear as a long-term effect of an eardrum rupture.

How can you prevent a ruptured eardrum?

There are several things you can do to avoid eardrum perforations the future, such as,

  • Avoid additional infection, keep your ear dry
  • When bathing, gently stuff your ears with cotton to prevent water from entering the ear canal
  • Swimming should be avoided until your ear has healed
  • If you develop an ear infection, seek treatment as soon as possible
  • When you have a cold or a sinus infection, try to avoid flying
  • To keep your ear pressure stable, use earplugs, chew gum, or force a yawn
  • Don’t use foreign objects including ear swabs  to clean earwax (showering every day is usually enough to keep your earwax levels balanced)
  • When you know you’ll be exposed to loud noise, such as near big machines, concerts, or construction sites, use earplugs.

What treatments are available for ruptured eardrums?

Antibiotics may be prescribed if a disease is present, or as a precaution against future infection. The eardrum may be repaired to keep microbes out, thus allowing it to heal.

Analgesics may be used to relieve pain. You can also help yourself by placing a heated warming pillow over your ear. To hasten the healing process, try to keep the area dry while bathing or swimming.

If the eardrum has not healed, a medical operation (tympanoplasty) may be required to reestablish the eardrum.


Most of the perforated (ruptured) eardrums heal without having to treat them within few weeks. However, your doctor may recommend antibiotic drops if there is evidence of infection. If the hole or tear in the eardrum does not heal by itself, treatment will most likely involve procedures to close the hole or tear.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. How long does it take for a burst eardrum to heal?

Even if you don’t get any treatment, your eardrum should heal in about a month. In most cases, full recovery takes around two months, especially following therapy or surgery.

  1. In the case that I have a medical treatment performed, how long do I need to stay at the clinic?

After an eardrum surgical surgery, you usually have the option to leave the clinic within one to two days.

  1. Is a ruptured eardrum a medical emergency?

A burst eardrum caused by an ear infection is usually not a life-threatening situation. However, you should have your ear examined by a medical professional within the next 24 hours.

Verified By Apollo Ent Specialist

The content is medically reviewed and verified by experienced and skilled ENT (Ear Nose Throat) Specialists for clinical accuracy.

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