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Ruptured eardrum – what is it and how to treat it

Broken eardrum or Tympanic Membrane perforation is a medical condition in which there is a tear or hole(s) on the eardrum. This could be the result mostly from middle ear infection, trauma to head/ear, sudden blast of loud sounds or foreign object poking too far into the ear.

Function of Tympanic Membrane

Apart from amplifying sounds, a tympanic membrane helps to transmit amplified sound to the inner part of the ear for sound processing. It also acts as a barrier to protect the middle ear from the external environment, thus making it an important structure in human’s ears and hearing system.

A perforated eardrum interrupts normal sound amplification and transmission system, which may lead to hearing loss (specifically conductive hearing loss) and expose the middle ear to infection.

Sighs and Symptoms

A person with tympanic membrane perforation may experience ear pain, especially the moment when eardrum gets burst or ruptured, feeling of ear block like water inside the ear canal, fluid discharged from the ear, ringing/ buzzing sounds in the ear or hearing difficulty.

Many patients are not aware of eardrum perforation until they go to see a general practitioner or Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist. It is not uncommon to see this condition happening more often in the kids/younger population as kids tend to get middle ear infection more frequently than adults due to the ear structural differences.

Treatment

Seek a Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist when you experience the signs mentioned above, he/ she will assess and treat the condition accordingly.

Keep the ear dry during the course of perforation, as a wet ear will affect healing and may result in more serious infection such as eroding the middle ear bones, causing more complications. Prevent water from getting into the canal with the use of proper earplugs during showers. Avoid swimming.

With proper care, a small punctured eardrum may recover within a few weeks. In other cases, sealing is unlikely to happen. A procedure such as a day surgery may be required to manually patch back the eardrum to prevent recurrent ear infection. Do consult an ENT specialist.

If in the event after medical or surgical intervention, the hearing impairment still exists, hearing aid amplification is an effective solution to overcome the hearing difficulties faced by the individual in daily situations. This type of hearing loss is also known as Conductive Hearing Loss. Taking the ear condition and severity of hearing level as important considerations, fitting an appropriate style of hearing aid such as behind-the-ear style on the affected ear will significantly improve one’s hearing ability in noisy places or with a group of people such as workplace meetings. Do speak to an experienced Audiologist to understand more.