Perforated eardrum (2023)

A perforated eardrum is a hole or tear in the eardrum. It is not usually painful but can be uncomfortable. A perforated eardrum usually heals within a few weeks or months provided the ear is kept dry and there’s no infection.

Symptoms of a perforated eardrum

One of the main symptoms of a perforated eardrum ishearing loss. This can vary in severity, depending on the size of the hole. It usually goes back to normal once your eardrum has healed.

Some people also havesymptoms of a middle ear infection, such as:

  • earacheor discomfort (before perforation - pain is usually relieved once the ear drum perforates and relieves the build-up of pressure causing pain)
  • a discharge of mucus from your ear
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above

You may have some ringing or buzzing in your ear (tinnitus) as well.

(Video) Ruptured Eardrum | Tympanic Membrane Perforations

Causes of a perforated eardrum

The eardrum is also known as the tympanic membrane. It is a thin layer of tissue that separates the outer ear from the middle ear.

Causes of a hole in the eardrum include:

  • amiddle ear infection, ifpus builds up inside your ear and puts pressure on your eardrum
  • an injury to the eardrum, such as a severe blow to the ear or poking an object such as a cotton bud deep into the ear
  • a sudden loud noise, such as a loud explosion
  • changes in air pressure, such as pressure changes while flying at high altitude or when scuba diving

When tosee your GP

See your GP if you have persistent symptoms of a perforated eardrum.


Although your eardrum will usually heal itself eventually, treatment may be necessary to prevent infections and help improve your hearing.

Your GP will use a special instrument called an auriscope or otoscope to examine your eardrum. These have a light and a lens that allow your GP to see any holes or tears in the eardrum.

Treating a perforated eardrum

Perforated eardrums don't always need to be treated. This is because they normally heal by themselves in a few weeks or months provided your ear is kept dry and there’s no infection.

(Video) How to Treat a Perforated Ear Drum | Ear Problems

If you have any pain or discomfort, you can take over-the-counter painkillers, such asparacetamoloribuprofen. Never give aspirin to children under 16.

Placing a warm flannel against the affected ear may also help relieve the pain. Care must be taken to make sure the flannel is not hot, to avoid scalding or burning of the skin.

Your GP may prescribeantibioticsif:

(Video) How long does it take for a ruptured eardrum to heal?

  • your perforated eardrum was caused by an infection
  • there is a risk that an infection will develop while your eardrum heals

You can reduce your risk of developing an infection by keeping your ear dry until it's healed. Don't go swimming, and cover your ears when having a shower.

You may need surgery to repair your eardrum if the hole is particularly large ordoesn't heal. The procedure used to repair a perforated eardrum is known as a myringoplasty.

More useful links

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information seeterms and conditions.

(Video) Perforated Eardrum & Ear Infection Causes & Home Remedies | Ear Pain & Discharge | Pristyn Care


How do they fix a perforated eardrum? ›

small surgical instruments are used to patch the hole in your eardrum with this piece of tissue – this may be done through your ear opening, or through a small cut made next to your ear.

How painful is a perforated eardrum? ›

A perforated eardrum is a hole or tear in the eardrum. It is not usually painful but can be uncomfortable. A perforated eardrum usually heals within a few weeks or months provided the ear is kept dry and there's no infection.

Should I go to ER for ruptured eardrum? ›

Go to the emergency room right away if you have severe symptoms. Examples of severe symptoms are bloody discharge from your ear, extreme pain, total hearing loss in one ear, or dizziness that causes vomiting.

What is the most common cause of a perforated eardrum? ›

Injury or Trauma to The Ear or Head

Sports injuries to the ear, or any sort of blow to the head are both likely causes for a ruptured eardrum. Very loud noises can also affect our hearing and our eardrums. Anything over 85 decibels is considered dangerous without proper ear protection.

How do I know if my eardrum is ruptured? ›

Symptoms of a perforated eardrum

Signs of a perforated eardrum, or an ear infection caused by a perforated eardrum, include: sudden hearing loss – you may find it difficult to hear anything or your hearing may just be slightly muffled. earache or pain in your ear. itching in your ear.

Can you go deaf from a perforated eardrum? ›

A ruptured eardrum can result in hearing loss. It can also make the middle ear vulnerable to infections. A ruptured eardrum usually heals within a few weeks without treatment. But sometimes it requires a patch or surgical repair to heal.

How long does it take for a perforated ear drum to heal? ›

A ruptured (perforated) eardrum usually heals on its own within weeks. In some cases, healing takes months. Until your provider tells you that your ear is healed, protect it by: Keeping the ear dry.

What not to do when you have a ruptured eardrum? ›

More Don'ts for Ruptured Eardrums
  1. Don't put anything into your ear. This means no ear drops, unless your doctor prescribes them, no candle wax, and absolutely no Q-tip swabs or metal objects. ...
  2. Don't blow your nose hard. ...
  3. Don't get water in your ear. ...
  4. Don't subject your ears to sudden changes in air pressure.

Does a burst eardrum bleed? ›

Ruptured eardrum: A perforated or ruptured eardrum can cause ear bleeding. The eardrum usually heals within 8 to 10 weeks. If your eardrum doesn't heal on its own, your doctor may recommend surgery called a tympanoplasty to repair your eardrum.

Can you use ear drops with a ruptured eardrum? ›

While recovering from a perforated eardrum, kids should: Never use over-the-counter ear drops unless the doctor says to. With a hole in the eardrum, some kinds of ear drops can get into the middle ear or cochlea and cause problems. Try to keep the ear canal dry.

What happens if a ruptured eardrum goes untreated? ›

Left untreated, a ruptured eardrum can result in permanent hearing loss, infection or a middle ear cyst known as cholesteatoma.

Can a ruptured eardrum be life threatening? ›

The eardrum is a thin membrane that protects your ear from bacteria and conducts sound. These injuries can cause ear bleeding, ear pain, balance problems and hearing loss. A severe ear injury can be life-threatening.

Can you burst your eardrum blowing your nose? ›

In severe cases, blowing your nose too hard can cause you an earache or even rupture your eardrum. The nose, ear, and mouth are connected. However, a forceful nose-blow can cause a rapid change in pressure behind the eardrum.

What happens if you get water in a perforated eardrum? ›

With a perforated eardrum, it's very important to keep your ear dry until it heals. A wet ear will affect healing and may result in a serious infection. “We usually recommend placing a cotton ball covered in Vaseline in the ear when showering and avoiding putting your head under water,” Adams said.

Can I put peroxide in my ear with a ruptured eardrum? ›

Hydrogen Peroxide Ear Drops Recipe:

When instilled in the ear you will feel a warm tingling sensation, and a bubbling/fizzing sound (sometimes described a little like 'Rice-Bubbles'). This solution is safe in all ears even when you have grommets or an eardrum perforation.

What does it feel like when you have a blown eardrum? ›

A ruptured eardrum, like a clap of thunder, can happen suddenly. You may feel a sharp pain in your ear, or an earache that you've had for a while suddenly goes away. It's also possible that you may not have any sign that your eardrum has ruptured.

Can a doctor tell if your eardrum is ruptured? ›

The health care provider will look in your ear with an instrument called an otoscope. Sometimes they will need to use a microscope for a better view. If the eardrum is ruptured, the doctor will see an opening in it. The bones of the middle ear may also be visible.

Why does my ear feel clogged but no wax? ›

Allergies, head colds, pregnancy, and air pressure are some common reasons it may feel like your ears are full. Typically, plugged ears settle after a few days. Decongestants and nasal sprays are the best treatment for plugged ears that allergies and head colds cause.

Can your eardrum fall out? ›

When the Eustachian tube doesn't allow air to enter the middle ear, the eardrum can collapse. Collapse or retraction of the eardrum results in the skin of the eardrum being “plastered” over the middle ear bones. Cholesteatoma grows around and destroys middle ear structures.

What medication is used for perforated eardrum? ›

Ofloxacin otic is used to treat outer ear infections in adults and children, chronic (long-lasting) middle ear infections in adults and children with a perforated eardrum (a condition where the eardrum has a hole in it), and acute (suddenly occurring) middle ear infections in children with ear tubes.

How long does a perforated eardrum surgery take? ›

This procedure will usually take 2 to 3 hours. Remove, replace, or repair 1 or more of the 3 little bones in the middle ear (called ossiculoplasty). Repair smaller holes in the eardrum by placing either gel or a special paper over the eardrum (called myringoplasty).

How long does it take to repair a ruptured eardrum? ›

The opening in the eardrum most often heals by itself within 2 months if it is a small hole. Hearing loss will be short-term if the rupture heals completely. Rarely, other problems may occur, such as: Long-term hearing loss.

Is tympanoplasty a major surgery? ›

Yes, tympanoplasty is major surgery because you're usually given general anesthesia.

How successful is perforated eardrum surgery? ›

In most cases, eardrum repairs are very successful. More than 90 percent of patients recover from tympanoplasty with no complications. The outcome of the surgery may not be as good if the bones of your middle ear need to be repaired in addition to your eardrum.

Can I live with a perforated eardrum? ›

If there is minimal or no hearing loss present and the ear does not easily get infected, one can actually live with the eardrum perforation without consequence.

What not to do when you have a perforated eardrum? ›

More Don'ts for Ruptured Eardrums
  1. Don't put anything into your ear. This means no ear drops, unless your doctor prescribes them, no candle wax, and absolutely no Q-tip swabs or metal objects. ...
  2. Don't blow your nose hard. ...
  3. Don't get water in your ear. ...
  4. Don't subject your ears to sudden changes in air pressure.

Are you put to sleep for tympanoplasty? ›

But for most patients, especially children, tympanoplasty is performed in an operating room with general anesthesia. Patients can usually go home the same day. Once the patient is asleep under anesthesia: The surgeon enters the ear through the ear canal or an incision behind or in front of the ear.

Are you awake during tympanoplasty? ›

An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon will do the tympanoplasty. Your child will get general anesthesia to sleep through the procedure. The anesthesiologist will carefully watch your child and keep him or her safely and comfortably asleep. During a tympanoplasty, the hole in the eardrum is patched.

How painful is a tympanoplasty? ›

The cut (incision) the doctor made behind your ear may be sore, and you may have ear pain for about a week. Some bloody fluid may drain from your ear canal and the incision. Your ear will probably feel blocked or stuffy. You may not be able to hear as well as before.


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