A ruptured eardrum, which is medically known as perforated tympanic membrane, is a hole or a tear in the eardrum, the thin layer of tissue that separates the ear canal from the middle ear. It can be uncomfortable, resulting in temporary hearing loss and can also make the middle ear vulnerable to infections or injury. It usually heals within a few weeks without treatment, but sometimes it requires a procedure or surgical repair to heal if the condition is more severe.
Symptoms of a ruptured eardrum may include:
- Ear pain that may subside quickly;
- Clear, pus-filled or bloody drainage from the ear;
- Hearing loss;
- Ringing in the ear;
- Spinning sensation;
- Nausea or vomiting that can result from vertigo.
The hearing loss is only temporary and the extent thereof will depend on the size of the hole in the eardrum. A small puncture may only cause a slight loss of hearing, whereas a large puncture is likely to cause greater hearing loss.
There are several possible causes of a perforated eardrum, which may include:
- Middle ear infection (otitis media);
- Barotrauma (a stress exerted on the eardrum when the air pressure in the middle ear and the air pressure in the environment are out of balance);
- Loud sounds or blasts, known as acoustic trauma;
- Small foreign objects in the ear;
- Severe head trauma.
Taking into consideration that the eardrum has two primary roles, being hearing and protection, if it, the following complications can occur:
- Hearing loss;
- Middle ear infection;
- Middle ear cyst;
- Tinnitus (buzzing in the ear);
- Facial paralysis.
A ruptured or perforated eardrum can be avoided by the following preventive measures:
- Getting treatment for middle ear infections;
- Protect the ears during flight;
- Keep the ears free of foreign objects;
- Guard against excessive noise.