Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava
The eardrum is a thin tissue that divides the external ear from the middle ear. The scientific name of the eardrum is ‘tympanic membrane’ which vibrates in response to the sound waves and also protects the middle ear from bacterial infections, water, and other foreign objects.
These vibrations develop motion in the tiny bones of the middle ear, which propels vibrations to the inner ear. The inner ear sends these vibrations as messages to the brain to respond accordingly.
Generally, the middle ear remains safe from germs, but when it gets infected with a viral or bacterial infection, or if the ear is exposed to any trauma or injury, it can give rise to a ruptured eardrum. Eardrum rupture is a condition that occurs due to a small hole or tears in the tympanic membrane and is also known as a perforated eardrum or tympanic membrane perforation.
In most cases, eardrum rupture affects the hearing ability of a person and can heal without treatment in a few weeks, but in rare cases, it can also lead to permanent hearing loss. This article will take you through the causes, symptoms, diagnoses, treatments, and home remedies that can help manage the condition effectively.
What causes eardrum rupture:
- Otitis media
Otitis media is an ear infection that gives rise to inflammation in the middle ear due to cold, sore throat, or respiratory infections.
Barotrauma is an ear injury that occurs due to a change in the air or water pressure outside the ear which is drastically different from the pressure inside the ear. Some activities like scuba diving, high altitude air travel, driving at high altitudes, shock waves, and any direct, forceful impact on the ear can give rise to barotrauma.
- Injury or trauma to the ear
Any injury or trauma near or to the ear can lead to a ruptured eardrum. The occurrence of incidents like getting hit in the ear, sports injuries to the ear, falling on the ear, or accidents, can give rise to eardrum rupture.
- Acoustic trauma
Acoustic trauma is the damage caused to the ear by exposure to high decibel noises which leads to a ruptured eardrum. It can happen after a single exposure to extremely loud noise or continuous exposure to high decibel noises for a very long time.
- External factors
Inserting foreign objects like cotton swabs, fingernails, pens, or matchsticks in the ear can also cause eardrum rupture.
Eardrum rupture symptoms
Eardrum rupture causes pain that can range from mild to severe. The severity of the pain can increase or decrease throughout the day, or it can remain constant. Some of the most common symptoms of eardrum rupture include:
- Severe earache which may come and go suddenly
- Inability or difficulty to hear from the affected ear
- Unusual discharge from the ear including blood
- Buzzing or ringing sensation in the ear
- A feeling of blocked ear
- Loss of balance
- A sound through the ear that resembles a whistle, while blowing the nose
The intensity of these symptoms depends upon the extent of ear damage. If the damage caused by eardrum rupture is severe, the impact of the manifested symptoms will be high, and vice-versa.
Eardrum rupture diagnosis
A ruptured eardrum can be diagnosed in any of the following ways depending upon the severity of the condition:
- Collecting a fluid sample: The doctor will test the fluid that may be leaking from the ear due to a ruptured eardrum
- Otoscope examination: The doctor will use a device mounted with a tiny light to examine the inside of the ear
- Audiology examination: The doctor will check the hearing range and eardrum capacity
- Tympanometry: The doctor will check the movement of the middle ear and eardrum in response to the pressure changes by inserting a tympanometer into the ear
Eardrum rupture treatment
You should immediately consult an ENT specialist if you experience the aforesaid symptoms for more than a week. If the condition is left overlooked, it can also lead to permanent hearing loss.
Some of the common treatments that doctors use to manage an eardrum rupture include:
If a ruptured eardrum does not heal on its own, the doctor will place a tiny medicated paper over the tear, to patch it and help it grow back normally.
Antibiotics aid in clearing the infections from the ear that can give rise to eardrum rupture, and help prevent the occurrence of new infections. These antibiotic medicines should not be taken without consulting your doctor.
Tympanoplasty is the surgical process conducted to heal a ruptured eardrum, but it is rarely required. In this, the surgeon takes tissue from any other part of the body and implants it over the perforated eardrum.
Home remedies to treat a ruptured eardrum
Some home remedies that can help ease the pain of a ruptured eardrum include:
- Placing a warm and dry compress on the ear, several times a day
- Avoid sleeping on the side of the ruptured eardrum
- Gently stuff cotton in the ears when taking a bath
- Don’t use foreign objects to clean the ear
Advisory: Always consume an over-the-counter medicine or ear drop after consulting the doctor, or it may worsen the condition.
By avoiding the above-mentioned causes of an eardrum rupture, and implementing home remedial tips to manage the condition upon experiencing the symptoms can help heal and ease the pain effectively. Seek immediate medical attention if the condition does not improve within a few weeks.
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