Your eardrum is the thin membrane that divides the outer ear and middle ear. Its job is to vibrate in response to soundwaves; the vibrations are then sent to the tiny bones in the middle ear and then onto the inner ear and the brain.
Sometimes, the eardrum can rupture, which means a hole forms in it. Below we review everything you need to know about a ruptured eardrum.
Symptoms of a Ruptured Eardrum
Possible symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include:
- Ear pain
- Drainage from the ear
- Hearing loss
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
- Vertigo (dizziness/spinning sensation)
- Nausea or vomiting
Causes of a Ruptured Eardrum
There are many ways an eardrum can rupture. Some include:
- Ear infections can cause the eardrum to rupture due to fluid building up in the middle ear and having nowhere to drain. Usually, fluid drains through the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear and the back of the throat. Inflammation can block them, however, causing middle ear infections.
- Barotrauma, or stress exerted on the eardrum when air pressure between the middle ear and environment is not equal, can also cause the eardrum to rupture. This can occur when taking off or landing at Denver International Airport, scuba diving and in the case of a direct blow to the ear.
- Acoustic trauma is exposure to a very loud noise, like an explosion, and can also cause a ruptured eardrum in rare cases.
- Foreign objects in the ear can puncture the eardrum, causing a rupture. This often happens with small children, but it can sometimes occur when adults improperly try to clean their ears with cotton swabs, hair pins or tweezers.
- Head trauma can cause damage to the structures within the ear, including the eardrum.
Treatment for a Ruptured Eardrum
There are several treatments available for a ruptured eardrum, including:
- Wait-and-see approach is recommended in most cases, as the eardrum can usually heal on its own. In the meantime, symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers and warm, dry compresses.
- Antibiotics may also be recommended to prevent or treat an infection.
- Patches are sometimes required to help the eardrum heal properly.
- Surgery is required in rare cases, and is called tympanoplasty.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Advantage ENT & Audiology today.