A perforated eardrum is a tear in the eardrum that can affect hearing. The degree of hearing loss tends to vary greatly. Small tears cause minor hearing loss while bigger tears can drastically affect hearing. In case the tiny bones or ossicles are impaired, the hearing loss might be more extensive.
The presence of a perforation puts an individual at higher risk for developing an ear infection. The reason for this is that the eardrum functions as a barrier to bacteria and other microorganisms that can enter the middle ear.
What are the possible causes?
- Middle ear infections that can damage the eardrum.
- Ear injuries
- Exposure to abrupt loud noises such as a nearby explosion
- Barotrauma occurs if there is sudden change in the air pressure and evident difference in the pressure of the air outside the ear and within the middle ear.
- Poking objects into the ear that can damage the eardrum
- Grommets are small-sized tubes that are inserted through the eardrum which are used to manage glue ear.
A perforated eardrum usually recuperates on its own within a span of 6-8 weeks. Since it is a skin-like structure, it eventually heals. In some instances, antibiotics might be prescribed by the doctor if there is a high possibility for infection in the middle ear as the eardrum is healing.
Generally, it is vital to prevent water from entering the ear while it is healing. The doctor might instruct the individual to place some cotton wool or similar material into the outer ear while washing the hair or showering. In addition, swimming should be avoided until the eardrum has healed.
In some cases, a perforated eardrum becomes infected. In such cases, antibiotics are required. The doctor will choose the suitable type since some ear drops can damage the nerve supply to the ear or provide oral alternatives.
Is surgery required?
A minor operation is an option to manage a perforated eardrum that does not seem to heal. There are various techniques that can be used to fix the eardrum which depends on the severity of the damage.