Audiology
Tympanic Membrane Perforation
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A tympanic membrane perforation is a condition where your eardrum has a tear or hole in it. Your tympanic membrane separates your outer ear canal from your inner ear.

Causes

Atympanic membrane perforation may be caused by any of the following:

  • Changes in ear pressure: An increase or decrease in the pressure inside your ears may damage your eardrums. Changes in ear pressure may occur when traveling on an airplane or if you are involved in an explosion. Underwater sports such as swimming or scuba diving may also cause pressure changes in your ears.
  • Direct trauma to your eardrum: Trauma may occur when small objects are placed inside your ear. Having the object removed may also cause damage to your eardrum.
  • Ear infection: Infections in your middle ear are called otitis media. Otitis media can be a short-term infection or can become a chronic infection. Ear infections may cause fluid or pus to collect behind your eardrum. The fluid and pus may cause pressure in your ear and cause your eardrum to tear.
  • Head trauma: Contact sports, car accidents and falls are common causes of head trauma that may lead to ear damage. A hard slap on your face or ear may also cause ear damage.
  • Past ear surgery: Ask your doctor for more information about surgeries or procedures that may have caused your tympanic membrane perforation.

Signs and symptoms

You may have any of the following:

  • Ear drainage that is clear, mucus, thick, yellowish or bloody
  • Hearing loss in your involved ear
  • Pain in your involved ear
  • Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing sound in your ear)
  • Vertigo (dizziness)

Diagnosing

Tell your doctor about any past ear infections and ear treatments you have had. You may be asked if you have history of trauma (such as accidents or assaults) or if you are involved in any water sports, contact sports or if you fly often. Your doctor may use a special tool called an otoscope to look inside your ear to see your eardrum and the size and location of the tear.

Treatment

 A mild eardrum perforation may heal on its own over time. Your doctor may clean your ear and put a bandage over it. You may be given antibiotic medicine to treat or prevent infection caused by bacteria. Your eardrum may heal completely within a few weeks to a few months, or you may need surgery.

What you can do

  • Always keep your ear dry. Avoid getting your ear wet, such as when bathing or swimming. Water that gets inside your ear may cause your damaged eardrum to heal slowly. Getting water in your ear may also increase your risk for infection.
  • Do not put anything in your ear. Never put pointed objects, such as a pencil in your ear. Pointed objects may damage or worsen the damage to your eardrum.
  • Only use ear medicines as directed by your doctor.
  • Try not to blow your nose. Blowing your nose may further damage your eardrum. Talk to your doctor about medicines you can use if you have a cold or runny nose.

For more information about DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital’s audiology and hearing services or to make an appointment, call 313-966-4725.