Ear Drum Perforations

A perforated or ruptured ear drum is caused by a tear in the thin membrane separating the outer ear from the middle ear. It usually happens suddenly and can trigger sudden, sharp pain, milder chronic pain, or no pain at all. Ear drum perforations can lead to hearing loss, but often clear up without medical attention.

Ear drum perforations can be caused by a number of different things, including:

  • Ear infection that causes pressure buildup and pushes against the eardrum
  • Poking the eardrum with a foreign object, such as a cotton-tipped swab used to clean wax out of the ear canal
  • Changes in altitude
  • Head injuries
  • Acoustic trauma

Symptoms also vary or might not be present at all. Some people experience only mild discomfort or notice air coming from their ears when blowing their nose. In addition to mild to moderate pain, there might also be drainage which can be bloody, clear, or resemble pus, buzzing in the ear, hearing loss, chronic ear infections, vertigo, or facial weakness.

Most perforations heal with little to no medical attention. Doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics to prevent ear infections and might place a patch over the eardrum for larger perforations or when the perforation is caused by infection. In severe cases, surgery may be required to reconstruct the eardrum.