Your eardrum is the thin membrane that divides your outer and middle ear. It also converts incoming soundwaves into vibrations that travel though the ear, allowing you to hear. Sometimes, the eardrum can rupture, which means a hole or tear exists. Below we review everything you need to know about a ruptured eardrum.
What Are the Symptoms of a Ruptured Eardrum?
If your eardrum ruptures, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Ear pain
- Drainage from the ear
- Hearing loss
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
- Vertigo (spinning sensation)
- Nausea or vomiting
What Causes a Ruptured Eardrum?
There are many possible ways an eardrum can rupture. Some include:
- Ear infection. If the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ears to the back of the throat, become inflamed, fluid can become trapped in the middle ear. This is known as an ear infection. If too much fluid builds up and is unable to drain, it can cause the eardrum to burst.
- Barotrauma. Barotrauma is a type of stress exerted on the eardrum when the air pressure in the middle ear does not equal that of the environment. Causes of barotrauma that can cause the eardrum to rupture include taking off or landing in Salt Lake City International Airport, scuba diving or a direct blow to the ear.
- Acoustic trauma. This type of trauma is caused by exposure to extremely loud noises, which in rare cases can cause the eardrum to rupture.
- Foreign objects in the ear. This is most common with children, but can happen to adults, too, usually when improperly cleaning the ears with cotton swabs, hair pins or tweezers.
- Head trauma. Cases of severe head trauma can also cause the eardrum to rupture.
How Is a Ruptured Eardrum Treated?
The severity of your eardrum rupture and how well you’re healing will determine what treatment is appropriate. Options include:
- Home remedies. Your doctor may take a wait-and-see approach, during which you can take over-the-counter pain medications and apply warm, dry compresses.
- Antibiotics. These drugs may be prescribed to prevent or treat an infection.
- Patches. Sometimes, patches are applied to the eardrum to help a tear or hole heal.
- Surgery. In rare cases, surgery called tympanoplasty is necessary to repair the eardrum.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call South Valley Ear Nose & Throat today.