Tympanic Membrane Perforation

ExitCare ImageThe eardrum (tympanic membrane) protects the inner ear from the outside environment. In addition to protection, the eardrum allows you to hear by transmitting sound waves to the bones in your ear and then to the nervous system. The tympanic membrane is easily perforated, which may result in damage to the inner ear.

SYMPTOMS

  • Sometimes there are no symptoms.

  • Decreased hearing.

  • Fluid drainage from ear.

  • Ear pain.

CAUSES

  • Most commonly, a middle ear infection from built-up pressure.

  • Injury from a cotton swab.

  • Traumatic injury to the side of the head.

RISK INCREASES WITH:

  • Frequent middle ear infections.

  • Use of cotton swabs.

PREVENTION

  • Do not use cotton swabs to clean the ear canal.

  • If you have ear pain or pressure, see your caregiver to rule out an ear infection that needs treatment.

TREATMENT

Protecting the inner ear and allowing the membrane to heal on its own is how tympanic membrane rupture is usually treated. Healing may take several weeks. In order to protect the inner ear, do not allow any fluid to enter the ear canal. Avoid being submerged in water. The use of ear drops may prevent an ear infection from developing, but they should be used with caution, as ear drops can also cause damage to the inner ear. It is important to follow up with your caregiver to confirm healing of the tympanic membrane. If the membrane does not heal, permanent hearing loss may occur. To avoid serious complications, tympanic membranes that do not heal on their own are repaired with surgery.