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Ruptured eardrum
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Ruptured eardrum

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A ruptured (perforated) eardrum is a tear or a hole in your eardrum (tympanic membrane), the thin membrane that separates your ear canal from your middle ear. This membrane vibrates when sound waves strike it, starting the process of converting sound waves into nerve impulses that travel to your brain. Damage to your eardrum interrupts the hearing process and may impair your hearing.

The eardrum also acts as a barrier to keep outside material, such as bacteria, from entering your middle ear. When your eardrum is ruptured, bacteria can more easily reach your middle ear and cause infection.

A variety of factors can cause a ruptured eardrum. These include an infection, injury and noise. Most ruptured eardrums heal within a few weeks without treatment. If the tear or hole in your eardrum doesn't heal by itself, you may need treatment.

Treatment

Most ruptured eardrums heal without treatment within a few weeks, although some may take months. If the tear or hole in your eardrum doesn't heal by itself, treatment involves your doctor taking steps to close the perforation. Treatments may include:

  • Eardrum patch. If the tear or hole in your eardrum is small, an otolaryngologist may seal it with a paper patch. This procedure is done in the doctor's office. Your doctor may touch the edges of your eardrum with a chemical to stimulate growth and then place a thin paper patch on your eardrum. Your ear may need several applications of a patch (up to three or four) before the perforation closes completely.

  • Surgery. If your doctor determines that a paper patch won't provide prompt and adequate closure of the tear or hole in your eardrum, or if attempts with paper patching fail to heal the damage, you may need surgery. A surgical procedure called tympanoplasty consists of a surgeon placing tissue from underneath the skin behind your ear across the perforation, allowing it to heal. The procedure is often successful in closing the tear or hole permanently and restoring hearing. This procedure is done on an outpatient basis, meaning you can go home the same day.

Closing a perforation in your eardrum can:

  •  Prevent water from entering your ear while showering, bathing or swimming, which could cause middle ear infection

  • Improve your hearing

  • Diminish ringing in your ears (tinnitus)

  • Prevent the development of a skin cyst in your middle ear (cholesteatoma), which can cause chronic middle ear infections and damage the structure of your ear

 

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 02:08 AM