An eardrum is a thin tissue between the outer ear canal and the inner ear. It is also known as tympanic membrane. This thin tissue plays vital role in auditory system. The sound waves which enter into the ear canal cause vibration of the eardrum. Vibrations are transmitted to the tiny bones of middle ear. The sound waves are then converted to sound impulses by the auditory nerve and carried forward to the brain.
Any damage to the eardrum can lead to several ear issues ranging from infection in the ear to hearing loss. Ruptured eardrum is a hole or a tear in eardrum. It can be complete rupture of the tympanic membrane or partial comprising of a tiny hole or a small tear.
With prompt medical attention partial rupture can heal within two to three months unlike larger rupture which requires microsurgery to repair the membrane.
What Causes A Partially Ruptured Eardrum?
A partial rupture of eardrum can occur due to many reasons.
- Infection in ear is one of the most common causes of partial rupture of the eardrum. Infection in the middle ear can cause build up fluid and pus behind the eardrum. At certain point excessive pressure from accumulated fluid can cause tear in the membrane. The fluid makes its way in the outer ear canal from partially ruptured eardrum.
- Injury to eardrum is another common cause for partial rupture of the membrane. It can occur while forcefully cleaning the ear canal with cotton swab. Many people have habit of inserting matchstick or pointed object inside the eardrum to relieve itching. They may accidentally damage the eardrum and partially perforate it. A slap on the ear may cause trauma to the eardrum.
- Change in atmospheric pressure at high altitude can lead to severe pressure in the ear canal. The delicate thin membrane may not be able to resist the pressure and eventually rupture partially. It may occur while driving at high altitudes or excessive pressure generated in ear in a scuba diver.
- Exposure to loud noises can also cause partial rupture of eardrum.
Symptoms Of Partial Rupture Of Eardrum
Usually mild rupture of eardrum does not produce any significant symptoms. Patient may feel small burst in his eardrum. Some people may experience pain but it is mild in intensity. Usually there is feeling of heaviness and discomfort in the ear.
There may be typical noise in the ear experienced by the patient; it may be like ringing or buzzing sound. There may be slight tinge of blood during rupture. It may not be noticed by the patient as blood loss is minimal. There may be temporary loss of hearing or hearing difficulty.
Frequently partial rupture produces oozing of watery secretion from the ear after few days. If infection sets in, the discharge may be purulent and foul smelling. It may be associated with pain in ear and at the back of ear.
Treatment Options For Punctured Eardrum
The main aim of treating partial rupture is to prevent further worsening of the condition and at the same time to prevent the risk of infection. If you suspect rupture of tympanic membrane consult an ENT surgeon as soon as possible.
Meanwhile cover the ear canal with sterilized cotton to prevent dirt and water entering into the ear canal. To relieve pain, place warm cloth or a towel over the ear. Usually partial rupture heals on its own within few weeks or months.
The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat infection in the ear canal. If the partial rupture does not heal, it may need patching. A medicated paper patch is placed on the minor tear or hole. This patch seals off the hole or partial tear within few days.
Normally it is safe for a person to fly if the perforation is minor. However, if surgery has been performed to patch the perforation, consult the surgeon before flying.