Ruptured Eardrum

A tear or hole in the membrane between the outer and middle ear

  • Age and lifestyle as risk factors depend on the cause
  • Gender and genetics are not significant factors

Rupture of the eardrum most commonly results from an acute bacterial infection of the middle ear (see Otitis media). Pus or other fluid produced by the infection builds up inside the middle ear and eventually bursts through the eardrum. Less commonly, a rupture occurs when an object, such as a cotton swab or hairpin, is poked into the ear. In some cases, the eardrum suddenly ruptures because there is an imbalance between the pressures inside the middle ear and the outer ear. Such an imbalance of pressure in different parts of the ear may occur after a blow to the ear, an explosion, a head injury, or when flying or diving (see Barotrauma).

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms usually last for only a few hours and may include:

  • Sudden, sometimes intense pain in the affected ear.

  • Bloodstained discharge from the ear.

  • Partial hearing loss.

If you suspect that you have a ruptured eardrum, keep the affected ear dry and consult your doctor as soon as possible.

What might be done?

Your doctor may inspect your ear (see Otoscopy). A ruptured eardrum usually heals within a month. Infection can be treated with antibiotics. Rarely, ruptures caused by an infection need to be repaired with a tissue graft.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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