A ruptured or perforated eardrum is a hole or tear in the eardrum. The eardrum is essential to the correct functioning of the hearing system. When sound enters your outer ear, your eardrum vibrates. The vibrations signal your auditory nerve, sending the signals to the brain to be translated into sound.
A rupture in the eardrum can interrupt its ability to transmit sound signals effectively and result in sudden hearing loss. Other symptoms may include but are not limited to:
- Sharp ear pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Fluid drainage from the ear
Although perforated eardrums usually heal on their own within three to six weeks, prolonged recovery time or larger tears can result in long-term hearing loss or vertigo.
What Causes a Perforated Eardrum?
A few common causes of a perforated eardrum include:
- Cotton swabs. Although putting anything smaller than your elbow in your ear is not recommended, many people attempt to remove their earwax with cotton swabs. A questionnaire from three primary care centers in England found that 68% of the 289 respondents used cotton swabs to clean their ears. Using cotton swabs for wax removal is ineffective and puts you at risk of eardrum rupture. If you experience issues with an overproduction of wax, make an appointment with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist to remove your wax professionally.
- Ear infection. When infected fluid accumulates in the middle ear, the resulting pressure on the eardrum can cause a perforation. While most ear infections resolve on their own, severe or chronic cases may require ENT treatment.
- Ear barotrauma. An imbalance between the air pressure in the middle ear and the environment around you can prevent the eardrum from vibrating normally, resulting in ear barotrauma and perforated eardrums.
Treatment Options for a Perforated Eardrum
A perforated eardrum can soil otherwise fun days walking around Marshall Square Park or hanging out with your friends and family. If a perforated eardrum does not heal on its own, your ENT specialist may recommend treatment options, including:
- Myringoplasty. During a myringoplasty, a medicated paper patch is placed over the tear or hole in your eardrum. After some time, the eardrum will grow back, repairing the tear.
- Tympanoplasty. During a tympanoplasty, skin or cartilage is taken from another area of your body to patch the eardrum’s tear.
For more information on treating or preventing a perforated eardrum, contact Pinnacle ENT today to make an appointment with one of our trusted specialists.