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Perforated ear drum (perforated tympanic membrane): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About perforated ear drum (perforated tympanic membrane)

The eardrum also known as tympanic membrane, in medical literature, is a thin membranous tissue located in the ear canal. Its function is to protect the delicate middle and inner ear from outside. Since it is so thin, it can easily fall prey to injury and may be ruptured or punctured, due to which there is middle and inner ear damage or infection.

Perforated ear drum (perforated tympanic membrane): Incidence, age and sex

Perforation of the ear drum may occur at any age, but is most common during the first decade of life. It occurs with the same prevalence in both the genders.

Signs and symptoms of perforated ear drum (perforated tympanic membrane): Diagnosis

Pain is the most common symptom of a perforated eardrum which can range from general discomfort to intense pain, or the patient may just feel as if there is something wrong with the ear. Along with this, there could be vertigo (spinning sensation of the head), hearing loss or some discharge from the ear.

A perforated ear drum is usually diagnosed with the help of an instrument called otoscope, which is inserted into the ear to see the contents of the ear. This instrument is normally used by an ear specialist for routine examination of the ear.

Causes and prevention of perforated ear drum (perforated tympanic membrane)

Infection in the middle ear caused by bacteria, virus, or fungi is the most common cause of a ruptured eardrum. Such infections results in stretching of the ear drum, thereby causing pain. Excessive stretching may lead to rupture of ear drum. Direct trauma to the ear drum may also cause perforation. Rapid changes in pressure, like flying at high altitudes or going up in an elevator too fast can damage the ear drum. It can also be damaged by loud noise from gunshots and fireworks.

Ear drum damage can be prevented by timely management of middle ear infections. Moreover, it is advisable to avoid flying if one has sinus infection or upper respiratory tract infection. Avoid cleaning ear by sharp objects like hair pins or pencils. Athletes are advised to use ear plugs during sports activities.

Perforated ear drum (perforated tympanic membrane): Complications

The perforation of ear drum may lead to damage of the middle and the inner ear. Sometimes, an ear infection may spread to the bone behind the ear (mastoiditis). Moreover, permanent hearing loss may also occur eventually in some individuals.

Perforated ear drum (perforated tympanic membrane): Treatment

Treatment is mainly aimed at relieving ear pain and preventing further infection. Ears should be kept dry and clean during the healing period. Swimming should be avoided. Antibiotics (oral or ear drops) may be used to prevent infection or to treat an existing infection. Analgesics (painkillers) may be used to relieve ear pain. Surgery may be required in occasional cases, when the above treatment modalities do not produce satisfactory results.