A ruptured - or perforated - eardrum is undoubtedly one of life’s more unpleasant experiences. However despite the initial alarm it might cause, in most cases a burst eardrum will heal itself with little fuss within a few weeks.
That being said, in extremely rare instances you may be required to undergo surgery.
Whatever the case, it’s important to maintain care of your ear to prevent permanent damage. If you experience any symptoms of a ruptured eardrum, we advise you to contact your GP. If you are concerned about your hearing levels, you can contact National Hearing Care for a consultation.
To give it its technical name, “tympanic membrane perforation” occurs when a hole or tear forms in your eardrum.
When that happens, you may experience any of the following:
It’s important to get a medical consultation if any of these occur to prevent possible injury or infection.
While you’re waiting for a proper diagnosis, try to keep the ear as dry as possible in order to prevent infection - avoid swimming and be careful when showering. Don’t apply any medicated drops unless specifically prescribed to treat infection associated with the perforated eardrum.
The cause of your burst eardrum could be linked to any of the following:
Yes, in most cases it will heal up by itself.
Pain-killers and a warm, dry compress will help with the pain. You may be prescribed oral antibiotics or medicinal ear drops to prevent (or clear up) any infections that might occur. It’d also be best to avoid any rigorous physical activity, keep your ear dry (refrain from cleaning it) - and try not to blow your nose any more than necessary.
While complications are unlikely, they are possible - especially if the rupture doesn’t self-heal within three to six months. Prolonged hearing loss in rare cases, for example, can result depending on the size and location of the tear. There’s also a very slight chance of recurrent middle ear infections if bacteria enters through the ruptured eardrum.
In the unlikely event your ear is unable to heal on its own, your doctor may patch the eardrum. Patching refers to the application of a medicated paper patch over the tear in the membrane - thereby helping it grow back together. The procedure may need to be repeated more than once before the hole closes
Yes, in some cases you may require surgery to repair the rupture. The standard procedure in this case is called “tympanoplasty”. Here the surgeon takes tissue from another part of your body and grafts it on to the eardrum. Typically, the patient can go home on the same day of the procedure.
There are a number of things we can recommend to avoid it happening in the first place.