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A ruptured eardrum can be extremely painful and lead to hearing loss when not promptly treated. Here’s more about what causes a ruptured eardrum and how to contact an audiologist for treatment.

What Is the Eardrum?

The eardrum is a thin tissue that stretches across the ear canal. It plays an important role in a person’s ability to hear and recognize sounds and helps protect the inner ear. However, the eardrum has a very delicate structure that can easily be perforated or ruptured due to trauma, damage to the ear, or infection. Eardrum ruptures usually heal on their own but can lead to more serious complications, including hearing loss when left untreated.

What Is a Ruptured Eardrum?

A ruptured eardrum is a small hole or tear in the thin membrane that separates the ear canal from the middle ear. The injury to this membrane may be caused by a puncture from an object such as a cotton swab or by pressure caused by fluid buildup (a perforated eardrum). A ruptured eardrum can allow air to flow into the middle ear, which can cause painful middle-ear barotitis (inflammation caused by environmental pressure changes) as well as hearing loss. The damaged eardrum may be healed with treatment or may heal on its own.

Symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include:

Causes & Risk Factors

A ruptured eardrum can be caused by a middle ear infection, which can lead to fluid accumulation in the middle ear that eventually puts enough pressure on the eardrum to cause it to rupture. It can also be caused by severe head trauma or injury that dislocates the structures in the middle and inner ear.

  • Other causes and risk factors of a ruptured eardrum include:•
  • The use of cotton swabs to remove earwax
  • Forceful nose blowing
  • Airplane pressure changes
  • Exposure to water in the ear canal for an extended period of time, such
  • as when swimming
  • Loud noises or blasts

Treatment Options

Many ruptured eardrums heal without treatment over a few weeks. However, some doctors may prescribe antibiotic drops if there is a risk of infection. If the tear or hole in the eardrum has difficulty healing on its own, other treatment options are available. These treatments include:

  • Eardrum patch. An audiologist may treat the ruptured eardrum by

sealing it with a paper patch anointed with a chemical that promotes

healing. This treatment may be repeated several times before the

injured eardrum fully heals.

  • Surgery. The most common surgery for an eardrum rupture is

tympanoplasty. During this procedure, a surgeon grafts a small patch of

the person’s skin over the tear or hole to close the eardrum. Another

small surgery may be performed on the eardrum to allow air to enter

the middle ear so it can equalize the pressure on either side of the

eardrum and relieve painful barotitis. Tympanoplasty may also treat

hearing loss.

When To See An Audiologist

Anyone who starts to experience signs and symptoms of a ruptured eardrum should schedule an appointment with an audiologist as soon as possible. The middle and inner ears are made up of delicate structures that can be sensitive to disease and injury, so it’s important to determine whether symptoms confirm a ruptured eardrum. People should also see an audiologist if they are experiencing significant ear pain, hearing loss, discharge from the ear, or fever. At Sonora Hearing Care, LLC, we understand how hearing loss can impact your relationships and quality of life. Our audiologists will be more than happy to address all your questions and concerns regarding hearing loss and help you recover from a ruptured eardrum. Contact us today at (520) 881-8740 to schedule a consultation and learn more about our hearing services.