The medical term for eardrum is tympanic membrane. There is often a decrease in hearing with a perforated eardrum and there can also be a liquid discharge. There may also be pain in the perforation is due to injury or if it becomes infected.
There can be different causes for tears in the eardrum. The causes are usually from injury, infection or sometimes chronic Eustachian tube disorders.
How a perforation can occur
A perforation of the eardrum due to injury can occur:
- If an object such as a cotton bud or bobby pin is pushed too far into the ear canal
- After a sudden explosion
- If the ear is hit or struck directly
- With a skull fracture
Middle ear infections (otitis media) can cause pain, hearing loss and a spontaneous rupture of the eardrum, leaving a hole or perforation. In this case, there may be infected or bloody drainage from the ear. Patients who have chronic or ongoing Eustachian tube problems, may experience a weakening in the eardrum which causes it to tear or open up.
Most perforated eardrums resulting from ear infection or injury will heal on their own in a matter of weeks although it can take up to several months at times. While the eardrum is healing is must be kept dry and protected from trauma.
How hearing is affected by a perforated eardrum
The size of the perforation or hole in the eardrum will determine the level of hearing loss. A larger hole will cause greater hearing loss than a smaller hole.
If a severe injury like a skull fracture moves the bones in the middle ear that sends out sound, hearing loss may be serious. Tinnitus may also be present, this is a ringing or buzzing in the ear.
Chronic infection because of the perforation can cause longer lasting or worsening hearing loss.
Treatment of a perforated eardrum
Before we attempt to correct the perforation of the eardrum, a hearing test or audiogram should be performed. We can do that in our office for you at the time of your appointment.
We will often employ a strategy of ‘watch and wait’ as most perforations will heal on their own in time. During this time it is vital that you keep the ear dry during showering and bathing and nothing must be inserted into the ear.
Usually with the healing of the perforation, hearing is improved and returns. If the perforation does not heal on its own, surgery may be required to repair and patch it. The name of this procedure is a tympanoplasty. This procedure is typically quite successful and improves or restores the hearing.