Burst Ear Drum

Burst Ear Drum

A ruptured eardrum is a condition when there is a hole or tear in the tympanic membrane (eardrum), which is the layer in the middle of the ear canal. This condition is usually a symptom or complication of another disease, such as an ear infection.

The tympanic membrane serves to channel sound waves from the outer ear. These sound waves are received by the tympanic membrane in the form of vibrations and are passed on to the middle and inner ear.

In the inner ear, the vibrations are converted into signals. After that, the signal will be sent to the brain to be translated into sound. Therefore, if the tympanic membrane is damaged or ruptured, then hearing can be disturbed.

A ruptured eardrum can heal on its own within weeks or months. However, in some cases, this condition requires medical treatment in the form of patching or ear surgery.

Causes of Ruptured Ear Drums

A ruptured ear drum can be caused by several conditions, namely:

  • Infections
    Ear infections are a common cause of ruptured eardrums. Ear infections, such as otitis media , cause a buildup of fluid in the middle ear. The accumulation of fluid causes pressure that can tear the eardrum.
  • Pressure A
    drastic difference in pressure between the outer ear and the middle ear, such as when diving, flying, driving to high altitudes, or climbing mountains, can cause the eardrum to rupture. This condition is commonly called barotrauma .
  • Injury A
    ruptured eardrum can also be caused by an injury to the ear or the side of the head. In addition, direct injury from inserting an object into the ear canal, such as a cotton bud or an earpick, can also cause the ear drum to burst.
  • Loud
    noises Very loud noises or explosive sounds, such as gunshots, can cause the eardrum to burst. This condition is called acoustic trauma . However, cases like this rarely happen.

Risk factors for eardrum rupture

A ruptured eardrum can happen to anyone. However, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of a person experiencing the condition, namely:

  • Suffering from an ear infection, such as otitis media or otitis externa
  • Have a history of eardrum rupture or previous ear surgery
  • Doing activities that can cause pressure changes, such as diving, mountain climbing, or flying
  • Suffering an injury to the ear due to an accident while driving or exercising
  • Inserting a foreign object into the ear, such as when using cotton buds

Symptoms of a Burst Ear Drum

The main symptom that appears when the ear drum is ruptured is a sudden severe pain in the ear. The pain will usually worsen and subside within a few minutes, but it can last longer.

In addition to ear pain complaints, sufferers of ruptured eardrums can experience different accompanying symptoms. The symptoms include:

  • Hearing impairment
  • Fever
  • Itching in the ears
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • The discharge of fluid in the form of pus that can be mixed with blood from the ear hole
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Nausea and vomiting due to vertigo
  • Weakness in facial muscles

When should you go to the doctor?

Do an examination with a doctor if you experience the symptoms and complaints mentioned above or experience an injury to the ear. The ear drum has a thin and delicate structure so it is prone to damage when the ear is injured or has certain diseases.

Immediately go to the hospital IGD if you experience severe symptoms, such as discharge from the ear, severe pain in the ear, sudden deafness , or dizziness that causes nausea and vomiting.

Diagnosing a Ruptured Ear Drum

To diagnose a ruptured eardrum, the doctor will ask the patient's symptoms and complaints, previous illness history, and the patient's habit of cleaning the ear.

After that, the doctor will look at the condition of the ear drum using an ear speculum or otoscope. If the examination results show that the patient has a ruptured eardrum, the doctor will refer the patient to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist for further examination.

The ENT doctor will perform several tests to find out the cause of the ruptured eardrum or to check for hearing impairment. Tests that can be performed include:

  • A culture test on the fluid coming out of the ear (if any), to determine the type of bacteria causing the ear infection
  • Audiometry or tuning fork test, to check hearing sensitivity to several sounds with different tones and volumes
  • Tympanometry, to examine the response of the eardrum to changes in pressure using a special instrument called a tympanometer

Ruptured Ear Drum Treatment

Generally, a ruptured eardrum will heal on its own in 6–8 weeks. However, if there are signs of infection or a ruptured ear drum that does not heal on its own, then medical treatment is required.

Some treatments that can be done to deal with a ruptured eardrum are:

Medical treatment

Medical treatment of the eardrum aims to relieve pain and overcome or prevent infection. Medical actions performed by doctors include:

  • Medicines The doctor will give antibiotics in the form of drops or oral
    medicine to prevent or treat ear infections. The doctor will also give pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol , if the pain caused by a ruptured ear drum does not subside.
  • Patching tears or holes
    If the tears or holes in the eardrum cannot heal on their own, the doctor will apply chemicals to the edges of the tears and install special paper as a patch. This patching will stimulate the healing process of the ear drum until it is completely closed .
  • Surgery or operation
    If patching a tear or hole in the ear drum is not successful, the doctor will perform an ear drum operation or tympanoplasty . This operation is done by grafting another tissue to the ruptured ear drum.

Self care at home

To help the recovery process of a ruptured ear drum, patients can also do self-care at home. Treatments that can be done include:

  • Keep the ears dry by using earplugs or a special device to prevent water from entering when showering
  • Avoiding risky activities, such as swimming, traveling to high altitudes, and doing heavy sports
  • Do not hold your breath in your nose when sneezing because it can increase the pressure on the ears and worsen the condition
  • Resist the urge to clean the ears for a while until the ruptured eardrum heals
  • Compress the ear with a warm dry towel

Complications of a Ruptured Ear Drum

As mentioned above, the eardrum plays an important role in the hearing process. In addition, the eardrum also serves to protect the middle part of the ear from bacteria or water that tries to enter.

If there is damage to the ear drum, it does not rule out the possibility that the sufferer will experience the following complications:

  • Chronic otitis media or middle ear infection in the long term
  • Cholesteatoma or cyst in the middle ear that can damage the structure of the ear bone
  • Deaf or hearing loss

Prevention of Ruptured Ear Drums

There are several measures that can be taken to prevent eardrum rupture. The following are things you can do to protect the eardrum:

  • Do not use hard or sharp objects to clean the ears.
  • As much as possible, avoid traveling by plane when you have a cold or sinusitis .
  • Use earplugs, chew gum, or yawn when there is a change in ear pressure, so that the pressure in the ear remains stable.
  • Use personal protective equipment in the form of earplugs, when working in a noisy environment.
Back to blog