The eardrum allows us to hear sounds by receiving the vibration of the sounds. It is a tissue that separates the ear canal from the middle ear.
A ruptured eardrum is a hole in the tissue that may lead to hearing loss. It is most common among children. Although it heals within a few days without any intervention, sometimes, it may require surgical treatment.
Ear infections can often cause a ruptured eardrum. The infection can lead to a fluid buildup, causing a rupture in the drum of the ear. Patients might feel pain and discomfort.
Some symptoms may indicate that the eardrum is ruptured. These symptoms include:
- Pain in the ear
- Temporary hearing loss
- Bloody drainage filled with pus
- A ringing sound
- Nausea or vomiting due to spinning
There are various causes of a ruptured eardrum, as follows:
- Infection in the middle ear: Middle ear infection often leads to the buildup of fluid. The pressure of this fluid may cause a hole or tear in the eardrum, leading it to rupture.
- Loud sounds: Sometimes a loud sound like a blast or explosion may also cause harm to the eardrum, resulting in a rupture.
- Inserting objects into the ear: Using small objects to clean ear wax may cause a tear in the eardrum in case the object is inserted too far.
- Barotrauma: Barotrauma is the pressure the eardrum experiences when the air pressure of the middle ear and the environment lose balance. Severe pressure can rupture the eardrum.Barotrauma is often caused by changes in air pressure during air travel, scuba diving, or a direct blow to the ear like an automobile ear bag impact.
- Severe injury: If someone experiences a severe injury to their ears or head, it may dislocate or damage the structure of the middle or inner ear. In such cases, the eardrums may also get ruptured due to the injury.
Our ENT specialists will inspect the ears of patients having symptoms of a ruptured eardrum by using some instruments. We may also recommend some tests to detect any ruptures, as follows:
- Infection tests: If there is any drainage from the ear, we recommend a laboratory test to detect an infection of the middle ear.
- Evaluation using a turning fork: We will examine the patient’s hearing loss with the help of a tuning fork. A turning fork is a metal instrument used to produce sound.This examination will help us determine whether the hearing loss is caused due to damage to parts of the middle or inner ear. When the cause of damage is determined, we can provide the required treatment.
- Audiology test: This test helps determine how well patients can hear a sound from different distances or in a different pitch. It is also conducted in different volumes. Normally, a soundproof booth is used to conduct the test.
- Tympanometry: A tympanometer is an instrument inserted into the ear to detect the responses of the eardrum to changes in air pressure. Different patterns of responses convey different signals.
Normally, a ruptured eardrum cures on its own within a few weeks. If there is any infection, we will prescribe some medications, including drops, antibiotic pills, etc. If these fail to heal the ruptured eardrum, we may suggest some other treatment methods:
- Applying a patch to the eardrum: If the eardrum ruptures do not heal, we will seal the hole or tear using a patch of paper or other material. We apply a chemical to the tear to help speed up the recovery. We may repeat the process more than once until the hole closes.
- Surgery: If the patch does not work properly or fails to heal the hole in the eardrum, our ENT specialists may suggest undergoing a ruptured eardrum surgery.One of the common surgical procedures for such a case is known as tympanoplasty. We carry out this procedure by closing the hole with the patch of the tissue.After completing the procedure, the patient can go home, as it is carried out on an outpatient basis. However, they may have to stay longer based on the medical anaesthesia used.
People can prevent a ruptured eardrum by following some early care procedures that will also help prevent other infections or illnesses in the ear:
- Seeking early treatment for the middle ear: Patients should contact their healthcare providers whenever they encounter any sign or symptom of a middle ear infection. Treatment can help prevent the worst-case scenario.
- Taking care of the ears while travelling on a flight: Patients should avoid travelling by flight if they have a cold or allergy that causes ear congestion.Besides, keeping the ears closed during take-off and landing can help avoid a ruptured eardrum. We recommend using pressure-equalizing earplugs, yawning or chewing gum.
- Being careful while cleaning the ears: Patients should avoid inserting objects too deep while cleaning out earwax. They should also be careful while cleaning earwax with a cotton swab and avoid using hair pins or paper clips, as these may cause damage to the eardrums.
- Protecting the ears against loud noises: Patients should avoid approaching loud noises if possible or protect their ears against explosive noises by wearing earplugs.
Although a ruptured eardrum often heals without treatment, patients may struggle with pain and discomfort due to severe injury to their eardrums. Those encountering any symptoms described earlier should contact their healthcare provider as early as possible.
To access hassle-free treatment and compassionate care for a ruptured eardrum, visit the ENT department of the CK Birla Hospital or book an appointment with Dr Anish Gupta and avail of effective treatment as well as cutting-edge medical facilities.