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Ruptured Eardrum - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Pictures

Updated on December 22, 2013


What does Ruptured Eardrum mean?

Ruptured eardrum is medically termed as Tympanic Membrane Perforation and which is described as a condition in which the eardrum or tympanic membrane has a presence of hole or tear.

Tympanic membrane or commonly called eardrum is an oval thin layer of tissue located deep in the ear canal. The edges of this membrane are attached to ring of bone called tympanic annulus while the characteristic is similar to drum and flattened with the apex pointing inward. Tympanic membrane functions in receiving sound vibration from the outer ear and transmits it to the auditory ossicles located in the middle ear. It also serves as a wall to separate outer ear canal from inner ear and also protects the middle ear from foreign objects and other bacteria from setting in.

The presence of hole or tear in the tympanic membrane can put one potentially at risk for infection and injury and hearing ability may be impaired. The severity of hearing impairment depends on the amount or size and the location of perforation where a large sized tear is tantamount to greater hearing loss as compared to small sized tear in the eardrum. Perforation resulting to a chronic infection can also lead one to a progressive hearing loss.

The incidence in prevalence of ruptured ear in general population remains unknown as studies and reports in this condition has not been established or conducted. It is however, essential to get acquainted with the effect of presence of hole or tear in the eardrum. The perforation can submit one susceptible to infection as the hole serves as the passageway for water contaminated with bacteria to enter the middle ear and the inner ear.

Perforation of the eardrum is described into two forms which are aptly classified according to the area of the eardrum involved.

Central perforation is the most common type of perforation that involves any part of the eardrum surrounding the hole. It can cause hearing loss while infection of the middle ear from bacteria-contaminated water is at high risk.

Marginal perforation is present at the edge of the eardrum or the tympanic annulus and which can give rise to skin tissue from invading the middle ear potentially leading to chronic or life-long ear infection subsequently damage or loss of hearing ability.


Rupture in eardrum is immediately followed by ear pain which the most common symptom of perforation in tympanic membrane. Ear pain varies in degree and which can be different from one person to another. The range of pain can go from general discomfort to intense pain while other patient may simply feel something wrong with the affected ear. Pain is also characterized to be consistent that suddenly subsides. However, there are also perforations that do not cause ear pain such as that of uncomplicated with ear infection and associated with otorrhea.

Other signs and symptoms of ruptured eardrum include:

  • Ear pain that is increasing in severity
  • Temporary impairment or hearing loss of the affected ear
  • Tinnitus or perception of buzzing, clicking or ringing sound
  • Audible whistling sound during sneezing or blowing of nose
  • Spinning sensation or vertigo
  • Ear discharge that may have blood or filled with pus
  • Nausea and vomiting which is brought by episode of vertigo.


The main culprit in occurrence of tympanic membrane perforation is infection in the middle ear. The infection can be from bacteria, virus or fungi. Eardrum will burst or rupture when the membrane can no longer resist the increasing pressure behind the eardrum which is brought by infection. Aside from infection, various causes can lead to rupture in the eardrum such as the following:

Change of pressure in the ear can result to Barotrauma which can rupture the eardrum when the drum can no longer hold the pressure buildup or cannot compensate with the sudden change in pressure. This type of trauma to tympanic membrane is common to frequent air traveler and scuba diver.

Head trauma that gives impact to the head can also damage the eardrum. Skull fracture included in head trauma can result to dislocation or damage within the structure of the inner ear and rupture the eardrum.

Acoustic trauma or overpowering sound wave is harmful to the eardrum such as from the sound of blast or explosion from explosives and gunshots.

Direct trauma can result to ruptured eardrum such as insertion of foreign objects or use cotton swabs.


Ruptured eardrum usually resolves without medical intervention. The goal of treatment however, is focused on the etiology or cause of the rupture. Perforations that do not resolve for longer period can be managed with a surgical intervention to close the perforation and such procedures include the following:

Tympanoplasty is a surgical procedure in repairing the ruptured eardrum by covering the hole with a grafted tissue.

Eardrum patch is applied over the torn eardrum with a use of paper patch and application of chemical to stimulate growth in the edges of the membrane.


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