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What Happens When Your Eardrum Breaks?

Feb 1, 2016 | Blog

We’ve all heard the warnings: sticking foreign objects in your ear is no good. But did you know it’s because you run the risk of breaking your eardrum?

Called a “Perforated” or “Ruptured” eardrum, this condition can result in a loss of hearing in the affected ear, an increased risk of infection for the delicate mechanism that sits in your middle ear, and a great deal of pain. But what is the eardrum, and how does it break?

Your eardrum is a thin membrane of skin and fibrous tissue that serves a few important functions. First and foremost, the eardrum is connected to the tiny bones in your middle, used to transmit the vibrations from sound into the neural stimulation we call ‘hearing.’ Second, the eardrum provides excellent protection for the more sensitive skin and structures of the middle and inner ear, and along with cerumen (see our post on earwax) protects you from infection.

Typically, this mechanism functions incredibly well. However, along with poking your eardrums with foreign objects, the tympanic membrane is susceptible to other injuries as well. If your ear is hit and receives direct pressure, there is a chance that this trauma could rupture your eardrum. Likewise, any severe change or application of pressure could cause damage to the thin membrane of tissue, including loud sounds, pressure imbalances (known as ‘Barotrauma,’) or a buildup of fluid from infection.

Symptoms of a perforated eardrum can include obvious symptoms like a sudden loss of hearing—either full or partial—a sudden loss of balance or sense of vertigo, ringing or whining in your hearing, and a possible discharge from your ear that may include blood.

For many minor eardrum perforations, healing is as simple as letting it recover without outside intervention, and keeping it dry and safe from loud sounds. Usually, it only takes a few weeks for full functionality to return to normal. However, if it is a particularly vicious eardrum perforation, or if there are complications from outside sources like infection or irritation, it may be necessary to perform a corrective surgery.

Fortunately, there is a simple procedure to correct the damage from a perforated eardrum. If you have persistent issues with a ruptured eardrum, our audiologists can perform what basically amounts to a chemically treated patch to inspire growth and protect the perforation. It may require a number of successive patches to recover from the perforation fully. If the audiologist feels like the patches are not correcting the perforation sufficiently, then it is possible that surgery must be performed.

If you have suffered from a sudden loss of hearing or an onset of vertigo-like symptoms, it is possible you have a perforated eardrum. Fortunately, our audiologists are highly trained with the most recent medical developments in the field. If you would like to set up an appointment, contact us today. We’ll help your ear heal in no time at all.