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Perforated Eardrum (cont.)

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What are the signs and symptoms of a perforated (ruptured) eardrum?

Patient Comments

Ear pain is the most common symptom of a perforated eardrum. The pain can include:

  • General discomfort
  • Immediate, sharp, or intense pain
  • Pain that suddenly gets better
  • A feeling as if something is not right with the ear

Other common symptoms and signs of perforated eardrum include:

  • Vertigo (spinning sensation)
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing changes
    • Often with ringing (tinnitus), buzzing, clicking, or other noise
  • Hearing loss
  • Fluid (may be clear or pus-colored) or blood draining from the ear

What are the causes of a perforated (ruptured) eardrum?

Infection of the middle ear is the most common cause of a ruptured eardrum.

  • Infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi.
  • Infections increase the pressure behind your eardrum, stretching the drum and causing pain.
  • When the eardrum can no longer stretch, it bursts or tears.
  • Frequently, the pain gets better, because the pressure is now relieved, however, sometimes the pain can get worse.

Trauma can also cause perforation.

  • Blunt or penetrating trauma, such as from a fall on the side of your head or a stick that goes deep in your ear
  • Rapid changes in pressure, for example, scuba diving (barotrauma, ear pain, or ear squeeze)
  • Slaps to the ear, such as a fall while water skiing or a hand slap to the side of the head
  • Lightning blasts
  • Blast waves from gunshots, fireworks, and other loud noises or explosions
  • Changes in air pressure during air travel or scuba diving
  • Sharp objects or cotton-tipped swabs
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls
  • Sports injuries

How can a doctor tell if you have a perforated (ruptured) eardrum?

The doctor can diagnose eardrum rupture by taking a history and looking in the patient's ear with an otoscope - a special magnifier with a light.

  • Occasionally, very small holes can be difficult to identify and may require further testing.
  • Tympanogram is a test that uses a short burst of air against the eardrum
  • Audiogram is a hearing test

Can you fly with a perforated (ruptured) eardrum?

It is safe to fly on an airplane when you have a perforated eardrum. However, if you have recently had surgery to repair a perforated eardrum, your doctor may advise you to not fly while it is healing.

What is the treatment for a perforated (ruptured) eardrum?

  • Because most perforated eardrum injuries heal on their own within two months, treatment may include analgesics to alleviate pain and antibiotics to prevent infection.
  • The doctor will likely advise the patient to keep the ear clean and dry while healing. This means swimming and scuba diving are not advised until a doctor says it is safe to do so.

If the perforated eardrum is due to a foreign object in the ear, do not try to remove it yourself. Only a medical professional should attempt to remove any foreign bodies in the ear.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/28/2016

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The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Perforated Eardrum (Ruputured Eardrum):

Ruptured Eardrum - Experience

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Ruptured Eardrum - Causes

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Ruptured Eardrum - Treatment

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Ruptured Eardrum - Symptoms and Signs

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Middle Ear, Tympanic Membrane, Perforations »

Tympanic membrane perforation (TMP) is a condition as old as the human species.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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