A tympanic membrane perforation is also referred to as a ruptured eardrum. The eardrum is a very thin piece of tissue that separates the outer ear from the middle ear. When you have a perforation of the eardrum, it is important to visit an ear, nose and throat doctor. Without treatment, a perforated eardrum could lead to hearing loss.
If you have a perforated eardrum, your symptoms could include a sudden trickle of fluid at the time of your injury. In some cases, the liquid could be tinged with blood. You may also notice ringing in your ear, which is also called tinnitus.
Many people experience a brief bout of intense pain when the eardrum ruptures, but the pain subsides quickly due to the release of pressure from behind the ear drum. Until the eardrum is healed, you may have some temporary hearing loss, as if there was a piece of cotton stuck inside of your ear. You could also experience a spinning sensation, which is called vertigo if there is significant trauma to the ear.
There are many causes of perforated eardrums, including infections of the middle ear. After infections, trauma is the most common cause of a ruptured eardrum. Trauma could occur as the result of a sudden, loud sound such as a gunshot. A head injury could also cause your eardrum to rupture. Sticking an object into your ear, even a cotton swab, could cause a perforation of the eardrum. Sudden air pressure changes, such as on an airplane, could also cause eardrum ruptures.
If no hearing loss has taken place and there is minimal damage to the middle ear, the ear, nose and throat doctor may treat the perforated eardrum with a patch procedure in the office. Antibiotics may be given to eliminate any infection that may have developed in the middle ear. The body is usually able to regenerate the eardrum within about three to four weeks. If the ear does not heal or if there is a severe infection, the doctor may need to perform surgery. The surgery will include repairs to the eardrum and removal of infection from the mastoid (bone behind the ear).