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Ruptured Eardrum

A rupture in the eardrum, also called tympanic membrane perforation, is hole in the eardrum caused by an injury, such as using a cotton swab or a hit to the ear or head, or from the pressure caused by an ear infection.

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UC Health’s Ear, Nose and Throat program ranks among the best in the U.S. Our multidisciplinary team is made of surgeons, otolaryngologists, neurotologists and laryngologists — all working together to deliver world-class care with deep compassion to every patient.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Ear, Nose & Throat team at 513-475-8400.

At UC Health, we are experts in the most complex conditions of the ear that affect your hearing and balance. Our team of subspecialists use the latest techniques backed by research to accurately diagnose your condition and deliver treatment for the best results.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Hearing & Balance team at 513-475-8400.

Our Otology & Neurotology subspecialists bring their advanced training and expertise in neurologic and structural disorders of the ear to diagnose and treat every patient. At UC Health, our team works closely with neurosurgeons to deliver leading-edge procedures to treat even the most complex conditions.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Otology & Neurotology team at 513-475-8400.

About This Condition

Understanding Tympanic Membrane Perforations (Ruptured Eardrum)

Your eardrum is a thin membrane between your outer and middle ear. Sound waves entering your ear cause the membrane to vibrate. This helps you hear. An injury or infection can cause your eardrum to tear (rupture). This creates a hole (perforation) that may affect your hearing.

Causes of eardrum perforation

Causes of a ruptured eardrum include:

  • Pressure from an ear infection.

  • Putting an object such as a cotton swab or pencil into the ear.

  • A very loud noise such as a gunshot close to the ear.

  • Rapid changes in air pressure. These can happen during scuba diving or traveling at high altitudes.

  • A slap or blow to the ear.

When to go to the emergency room (ER)

Seek medical care right away if you:

  • Have severe pain, bleeding, or ringing in your ear.

  • Lose your hearing suddenly.

  • Become very dizzy for no reason.

  • Have an object lodged in your ear.

A ruptured eardrum from an ear infection usually isn't an emergency. In fact, the rupture often relieves pressure and pain. It usually heals within hours or days. But you should have the ear looked at by a healthcare provider within 24 hours.

What to expect in the ER

Your ear will be examined. Treatment will depend on how severe the damage is. Small holes often heal on their own. A small patch may be placed over a minor eardrum tear. Large tears may need to be repaired during an operation. If you are very dizzy or have severe hearing loss, you are likely to stay in the hospital for treatment for one or more days.

Don't clean inside the ear canal with cotton swabs or any other object.

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