Ruptured Eardrum: Symptoms, Treatments, and Recovery (2023)

Ruptured Eardrum: Symptoms, Treatments, and Recovery (1)

Written by Joseph Saling

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on April 21, 2022

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.

A ruptured eardrum -- also known as a perforated eardrum or a tympanic membrane perforation -- can lead to complications such as middle ear infections and hearing loss. It may also require surgery to repair the damage to the eardrum. But typically, especially if you protect your ear, a ruptured eardrum will heal on its own without treatment within a couple of months.

What Is a Ruptured Eardrum?

A ruptured eardrum is a tear in the thin membrane that separates your outer ear from your inner ear. That membrane, known as the tympanic membrane, is made of tissue that resembles skin.

The eardrum serves two important functions in your ear. It senses vibrating sound waves and converts the vibration into nerve impulses that convey the sound to your brain. It also protects the middle ear from bacteria as well as water and foreign objects. Normally, the middle ear is sterile. But when the eardrum is ruptured, bacteria can get into the middle ear and cause an infection known as otitis media.

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

What Causes a Ruptured Eardrum?

A number of things can cause the eardrum to rupture; one of the most common causes is an ear infection. When the middle ear is infected, pressure builds up and pushes against the eardrum. When the pressure gets too great, it can cause the eardrum to perforate. When that happens, you may suddenly notice that the pain and pressure you've felt from the infection suddenly stops and pus drains from the ear.

Another common cause of a ruptured eardrum is poking the eardrum with a foreign object, such as a cotton-tipped swab or a bobby pin that's being used to clean wax out of the ear canal. Sometimes children can puncture their own eardrum by putting objects such as a stick or a small toy in their ear.

Some ruptured eardrums result from what's known as barotrauma. This happens when the pressure inside the ear and the pressure outside the ear are not equal. That can happen, for example, when an airplane changes altitude, causing the air pressure in the cabin to drop or rise. The change in pressure is also a common problem for scuba divers.

A head injury or an ear slap can cause the eardrum to rupture. So can an acoustic trauma caused by a sudden loud noise, such as an explosion or a sudden blast of loud music.Learn more about how to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

(Video) I ruptured my EARDRUM. Healed in 6 months without any surgery. Here's the story

What Are the Symptoms of a Ruptured Eardrum?

Some people don't notice any symptoms of a ruptured eardrum. Others see their doctor only after several days of general discomfort in their ear and feeling that "something's not quite right with the ear." Some people are surprised to hear air coming out their ear when they blow their nose. Forcefully blowing your nose causes air to rise up to fill the space in your middle ear. Normally this will cause the eardrum to balloon outward. But if there is a hole in the eardrum, air will rush out. Sometimes the sound is loud enough for other people to hear.

Other symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include:

  • Sudden sharp ear pain or a sudden decrease in ear pain
  • Drainage from the ear that may be bloody, clear, or resemble pus
  • Ear noise or buzzing
  • Hearing loss that may be partial or complete in the affected ear
  • Episodic ear infections
  • Facial weakness or dizziness

How Is a Ruptured Eardrum Diagnosed?

If you have any of the symptoms of a ruptured eardrum, the doctor will do an otoscopic exam. An otoscope is an instrument with a light that's used to look inside the ear. In most cases, if there is a hole or tear in the eardrum, the doctor will be able to see it.

Sometimes there may be too much wax or drainage for the doctor to clearly see the eardrum. If this is the case, the doctor may clean the ear canal or prescribe eardrops for you to use to help clear it. Sometimes, the doctor uses a rubber bulb attached to the otoscope to blow a puff of air into the ear. If the eardrum is not ruptured, it will move when the air hits it. If it is ruptured, it won't.

The doctor may also test your hearing to determine how much effect the ruptured eardrum has had on your hearing; they may use a tuning fork to test it. The doctor may also ask for an audiology test, which uses a series of tones you listen to with headphones to determine your level of hearing. Most hearing loss due to a ruptured eardrum is temporary. Normal hearing returns usually after the eardrum heals.


How Is a Ruptured Eardrum Treated?

Typically, no specific treatment is needed for a ruptured eardrum; the vast majority of ruptured eardrums heal within three months. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic -- either oral or in the form of eardrops -- to prevent an ear infection or treat an existing infection. If the ruptured eardrum is causing you pain, the doctor may recommend using an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Warmth may be applied also to relieve discomfort.

If the eardrum is slow to heal, you may be referred to an ear nose and throat doctor who may place a patch over the eardrum. In some cases, surgery may be needed to repair a ruptured eardrum. The surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis. During the procedure, which usually takes a couple of hours, the doctor will attach a piece of your own tissue to the eardrum to rebuild the eardrum. Surgery is most commonly used for large perforations, for perforations that involve the edges of the eardrum, or for ruptured eardrums caused by an ear infection.

While the eardrum heals, you'll need to keep the ear dry. That means no swimming or diving until the doctor says the eardrum is healed. You'll also need to use a shower cap or use water-repellent earplugs (like swimmer's wear) in your outer ear when you shower to keep water out. Other precautions include:

  • Not using medicine other than what's prescribed by your doctor in your ear
  • Taking all the medicine prescribed by the doctor
  • Protecting the ear from cold air
  • Avoiding blowing your nose while the ear heals

How Can a Ruptured Eardrum Be Prevented

The two most important steps you can take to prevent a ruptured eardrum are to avoid putting any object into your ear -- even to clean it -- and to treat ear infections promptly. It's also important to see a doctor to remove a foreign object in your ear rather than try to remove it yourself.

(Video) Ruptured eardrum (perforated eardrum)Treatment for eardrum rupture

(Video) 5 Causes of Ruptured Eardrum : Symptoms and Treatment - Dr. Harihara Murthy | Doctors' Circle


Can you fully recover from a ruptured eardrum? ›

Most ruptured (perforated) eardrums heal without treatment within a few weeks. Your provider may prescribe antibiotic drops if there's evidence of infection. If the tear or hole in the eardrum doesn't heal by itself, treatment will likely involve procedures to close the tear or hole.

How long does it take for a ruptured eardrum to feel better? ›

It'll usually heal within a few weeks and might not need any treatment. But it's a good idea to see a GP if you think your eardrum has burst, as it can cause problems such as ear infections.

How do you make a ruptured eardrum feel better? ›

Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), as needed. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to.

How long does a ruptured eardrum take to heal with antibiotics? ›

Once on antibiotics, your child will get better in 2 or 3 days. The fever should be gone by 2 days (48 hours). The ear pain should be better by 2 days. It should be gone by 3 days (72 hours).

What are the long term effects of a ruptured eardrum? ›

A ruptured (perforated) eardrum can allow bacteria to enter the ear. If a perforated eardrum doesn't heal, a small number of people may be vulnerable to ongoing (recurrent or chronic) infections. In this small group, chronic drainage and hearing loss can occur.

Do I need surgery for a ruptured eardrum? ›

You may need surgery to repair a perforated eardrum if the hole in your eardrum is large or does not heal in a few weeks. The type of operation you'll have is called a myringoplasty.

Does a ruptured eardrum hurt a lot? ›

A ruptured eardrum can be quite painful, or you may not even realize it has happened. Nevertheless, it is not something to take lightly or ignore as a ruptured or perforated eardrum can have some serious complications.

Is it normal for ear to drain after ruptured eardrum? ›

Symptoms. Ear pain may suddenly decrease right after your eardrum ruptures. After the rupture, you may have: Drainage from the ear (drainage may be clear, pus, or bloody)

Does a ruptured eardrum feel like it's clogged? ›

A decrease in hearing: When your ear feels clogged, or there is a whistling or buzzing sound accompanied by a partial (or total) loss of hearing, these are often signs of a ruptured eardrum.

Does heating pad help ruptured eardrum? ›

To ease pain, put a warm washcloth or a heating pad set on low on your ear. You may have some drainage from the ear. Be careful when taking over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol.

What over-the-counter medicine can I take for a ruptured eardrum? ›

If the ruptured eardrum is causing you pain, the doctor may recommend using an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Warmth may be applied also to relieve discomfort.

Is heat good for a ruptured eardrum? ›

At home, you can ease the pain of a ruptured eardrum with heat and pain relievers. Placing a warm, dry compress on your ear several times daily can help. Promote healing by not blowing your nose any more than absolutely necessary.

How does a ruptured eardrum feel? ›

They include some of the following: a sudden increase or decrease in pain, bloody discharge from the ear with pus, hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo or a spinning sensation, and nausea and vomiting from the vertigo. Some people don't notice any real pain from a ruptured eardrum, just a discomfort in the ear.

Is there a difference between a perforated and ruptured eardrum? ›

A perforated eardrum is a tear or hole in the ear's tympanic membrane (the eardrum). A perforated eardrum is also called a ruptured eardrum. A perforated (PER-fer-ate-id) eardrum can hurt, but most heal in a few days to weeks. If they don't heal, sometimes doctors do a surgery to fix the hole.

How long does your ear leak after rupture? ›

The answer in most cases is “yes.” A small hole or tear in the drum will usually heal in a few weeks and the hearing returns rather quickly.

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.

What does it feel like when you have a burst 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.


1. How to Treat a Perforated Ear Drum | Ear Problems
2. Ruptured Eardrum | Tympanic Membrane Perforations
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3. Ruptured eardrum I what should you do after traumatic perforation of tympanic membrane?
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4. Perforated Eardrum & Ear Infection Causes & Home Remedies | Ear Pain & Discharge | Pristyn Care
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5. PhonoGraft: Programming the eardrum to repair itself
(Wyss Institute)
6. Natural healing of traumatic eardrum perforation - weekly follow up videos
(Otorhinolaryngology Office)
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