Eardrum rupture is basically a small tear or hole in the eardrum or tympanic membrane. It is the thin tissue that divides the outer ear canal and the middle ear. The tympanic membrane vibrates once sound waves enter the ear. Once the eardrum is damaged, it can affect your hearing.
An eardrum that is ruptured is also known as perforated eardrum. In rare cases, it can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Causes of eardrum rupture
Infections in the ear are considered as the common cause of eardrum rupture, particularly among children. During an ear infection, fluids can accumulate behind the eardrum. The pressure caused by the fluid accumulation can cause the tympanic membrane to rupture or break.
Changes in the pressure within the ear can also cause the condition especially during scuba diving, driving at areas with high altitudes and travelling in an airplane.
Injuries can also lead to the rupture of the eardrum. Any trauma to the side of the head or the ear itself can cause a rupture. Even cleaning the ears using cotton swabs is considered dangerous if you are not careful. Listening to very loud noises can cause the eardrum to break but it is not common.
Symptoms of eardrum rupture
Pain is the primary symptom of eardrum rupture. Every individual will experience pain in a different way where it can be severe for some. The pain can stay steady all day long or it can decrease or increase in intensity.
In most cases, the ear will start to drain once the pain diminishes. Take note that the eardrum at this point is already ruptured and the fluid can be watery, filled with pus or bloody.
There is temporary hearing loss or a reduction in the hearing capability in the affected ear. Some can also experience tinnitus which is the ringing in the ears. In cases in which the eardrum is ruptured severely, it can be accompanied with other symptoms such as facial muscle weakness or dizziness.
Treatment for eardrum rupture
The treatment for a ruptured eardrum is specifically designed to minimize pain as well as prevent infection. A first aid measure to ease the pain at home is to apply heat or administer over-the-counter pain medications. A simple remedy is to apply a warm, dry compress on the affected ear several times in a day.
Antibiotics will help clear up the infection that might have caused the eardrum to rupture. It will also protect from new infections that will develop due to the perforation. Antibiotics can be prescribed in the form of oral pills or as eardrops.
In case the affected ear does not heal on its own, the doctor will patch the eardrum. Patching basically involves placing a medicated patch made of paper over the tear in the membrane. The patch will encourage the membrane to grow back.
In rare cases, surgery might be required to patch the hole. The surgical procedure is called tympanoplasty which involves taking a tissue from another part of the body and grafted into the hole in the eardrum.
An eardrum rupture often heals on its own without requiring any invasive treatment. In most cases, individuals will only experience temporary hearing loss. You can expect full recovery within the span of eight weeks.