Conditions We Treat: Perforated Eardrum
At ENT, Sinus & Hearing Care Center, we are experienced at diagnosing and treating ear problems such as perforated eardrums. Learn more about the condition, including what it is and how we can help.
What Is a Perforated Eardrum?
First, a brief overview of the ear itself. The ear is split into three main parts — external ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The eardrum, also called the “tympanic membrane,” is a thin structure between the middle ear and external ear. When sound waves reach the external ear, they strike the eardrum, making it vibrate.
A perforated eardrum occurs when the eardrum becomes torn. This will affect hearing, but the extent depends on the damage and the location of the perforation. When the eardrum becomes torn, there’s also increased risk of infection, because the eardrum protects the middle ear from bacteria or germs.
What Are the Causes and Symptoms of a Perforated Eardrum?
Some of the causes include:
- Sudden loud noises
- Blunt force resulting from punches or kicks to the ear
- Barotrauma, in which a sudden change in air pressure outside the ear significantly differs from that within the middle ear
Symptoms can include:
- Pus or blood leakage from the ear
- Ringing sound or ear pain
- Vision spins (vertigo)
- Vomiting and nausea
How Is a Perforated Eardrum Diagnosed?
Expert otolaryngologist Dr. Daniel S. Samadi can perform a thorough ear examination to confirm whether you or a loved one has a perforated eardrum. He’ll use an instrument called an “otoscope.”
It may be challenging for the doctor to examine the eardrum fully if there is a great deal of wax or inflammation within the ear. Those issues would need to be addressed first.
How Is a Perforated Eardrum Treated?
In most cases, the ear will heal on its own — without need for treatment. This typically occurs in six to eight weeks. If there is infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics to assist the eardrum in healing.
While the eardrum heals, it should not be exposed to water — and it’s important to avoid swimming. Placing a water-resistant earplug in the outer ear while bathing or washing hair can help protect the eardrum.
In the rare case that the eardrum doesn’t heal on its own, surgery may be the appropriate solution to repair the hole or tear. One solution is myringoplasty, in which the physician will place a small graft to cover a small opening (most often from an ear tube that fell out or was removed). However, if this is not sufficient, a more advanced procedure is available. The procedure, a tympanoplasty may take as little as 15 minutes or up to 2.5 hours, depending on the type of procedure involved.
What Is the Difference Between Myringoplasty and Tympanoplasty?
They are basically the same thing, but one is potentially more invasive because it’s dealing with a larger, more chronic type of opening. Tympanoplasty is a surgical procedure that repairs a perforated eardrum by grafting a piece of skin, cartilage, or fascia from another part of the body over a larger hole. While this type of injury can heal on its own, surgically closing the perforation prevents water and germs from entering the inner ear, and it maximizes your potential for better healing and hearing.
What to Expect During the Procedure
Tympanoplasty is performed under general anesthesia. Your otolaryngologist will make an incision behind the earlobe and extract a small piece of tissue. This tissue is the graft that will be used to cover the hole in the eardrum. The operation lasts between one and two hours, depending on the extent of the injury. The stitches used to close the perforation are self-absorbing and will not need to be removed.
Tympanoplasty is a very safe and effective procedure. It is usually not painful, but you may take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to alleviate any post-surgery discomfort. Your otolaryngologist may also recommend corticosteroids to control inflammation.
In the rare case that tympanoplasty is performed by an inexperienced physician, the following complications are possible:
- Recurring ear infection
- Partial or total hearing loss
- Facial nerve injury
- Taste abnormalities
Recovery and Home Care
A feeling of fullness in the ear is common during the first few days following surgery and will resolve on its own. Keep the ear clean and dry. Do not allow water to enter the canal, and never insert cotton swabs. Sneezing or blowing the nose too hard can also dislodge stitches and lengthen the healing process, so try to avoid individuals who may be suffering from colds. Consider taking antihistamines to keep allergies under control. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotic ear drops for several weeks to prevent infection, and the office will schedule follow-up appointments to check on your progress and ensure the procedure was successful.
Because the middle and inner parts of the ear are fragile and easily damaged, prompt treatment is essential to a good outcome. Dr. Samadi will perform a thorough medical examination and recommend the most appropriate course of action to prevent hearing loss and other complications.
Our caring team is experienced in identifying and treating a wide range of ear issues. If you or a loved one is having difficulty with one or both ears, don’t wait. Ask us about a diagnostic evaluation and treatment plan for your specific needs today.