Perforated eardrum

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Perforated eardrum
Other namesPunctured eardrum
SpecialtyENT surgery
Normal ear drum
Perforated Ear Drum

A perforated eardrum is a hole in the eardrum which can occur as a result of infection (otitis media), trauma (e.g. by trying to clean ear wax with sharp instruments, or surgical complications), overpressure (loud noise or shockwave from an explosion) or inappropriate ear clearing. Flying with a severe cold can also cause perforation due to changes in air pressure and blocked eustachian tubes resulting from the cold. This is especially true on landing.[medical citation needed]


Perforation of the eardrum leads to conductive hearing loss, which is usually temporary. Other symptoms may include tinnitus, earache, vertigo or a discharge of mucus.[1] Nausea and/or vomiting secondary to vertigo may occur.[2]

To diagnose a perforated eardrum, a doctor will examine inside the ear with an instrument called an otoscope. This gives a view of the ear canal and eardrum, allowing confirmation of any rupture/perforation.


The perforation may heal in a few weeks, or may take up to a few months.[2] Some perforations require intervention. This may take the form of a paper patch to promote healing (a simple procedure by an ear, nose and throat specialist), or surgery (tympanoplasty).[2] However, in some cases, the perforation can last several years and will be unable to heal naturally. For patients with persistent perforation, surgery is usually undertaken to close the perforation. The objective of the surgery is to provide a platform of sort to support the regrowth and healing of the tympanic membrane in the two weeks post surgery period. There are two ways of doing the surgery:

  1. Traditional tympanoplasty, usually using the microscope and performed through a 10 cm incision behind the ear lobe. This technique was introduced by Wullstien and Zollner[3] and popularized by the Jim Sheehy at the House Ear Institute.[4]
  2. Endoscopic tympanoplasty, usually using the endoscope through the ear canal without the need for incision. This technique was introduced and popularized by Professor Tarabichi of TSESI: Tarabichi Stammberger Ear and Sinus Institute.[5]

The success of surgery is variable based on the cause of perforation and the technique being used. Predictors of success include traumatic perforation, dry ear, and central perforations. Predictors of failure includes young age and poor eustachian tube function.[4] The use of minimally invasive endoscopic technique does not reduce the chance of successful outcome.[5] Hearing is usually recovered fully, but chronic infection over a long period may lead to permanent hearing loss. Those with more severe ruptures may need to wear an ear plug to prevent water contact with the ear drum.


  1. ^ "Perforated eardrum - Symptoms". National Health Service. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  2. ^ a b c "Ruptured eardrum (perforated eardrum) - Symptoms and causes". Mayo Clinic.
  3. ^ Zöllner, Fritz (October 1955). "The Principles of Plastic Surgery of the Sound-Conducting Apparatus". The Journal of Laryngology & Otology. 69 (10): 637–652. doi:10.1017/s0022215100051240. ISSN 0022-2151.
  4. ^ a b Sheehy, J. L.; Glasscock, M. E. (1967-10-01). "Tympanic Membrane Grafting With Temporalis Fascia". Archives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. 86 (4): 391–402. doi:10.1001/archotol.1967.00760050393008. ISSN 0886-4470.
  5. ^ a b Tarabichi, Muaaz; Poe, Dennis S.; Nogueira, João Flávio; Alicandri-Ciufelli, Matteo; Badr-El-Dine, Mohamed; Cohen, Michael S.; Dean, Marc; Isaacson, Brandon; Jufas, Nicholas; Lee, Daniel J.; Leuwer, Rudolf (October 2016). "The Eustachian Tube Redefined". Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America. 49 (5): xvii–xx. doi:10.1016/j.otc.2016.07.013.

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