What is a perforated ear drum?

A perforated eardrum might sound like a nightmare injury, but it’s actually a lot more common than you might think and can be caused by a variety of accidents or illnesses. So what does it actually mean when you have a perforated eardrum, and how can you care for your injury? Let’s take a look.

What is it?

A perforated eardrum is also sometimes known as a burst or broken eardrum, and it means you have a hole in your eardrum. The eardrum usually separates the outer ear from the inner ear, playing an important role in capturing sound and converting it into electrical signals that the brain can understand. When your eardrum is perforated, it can impair these functions, leading to issues such as leaking fluid, pain, hearing loss and ringing or buzzing.

How does it happen?

While it may sound like a traumatic way to injure yourself, a perforated eardrum is actually surprisingly common. The most common way that people perforate their eardrums is through trauma, such as placing objects like cotton buds in the ear canal, but it can also be caused by extremely loud noises or changes in pressure. Perforations can also be caused by other illnesses like ear infections, so it’s important to remember to consider this if you have recently had other ear-related problems.

How is it treated?

It’s important to see a GP as soon as possible if you think you have any of the symptoms of a perforated eardrum, or if you have had any other ear conditions recently that have persisted for more than two weeks. While there are no specific treatments to cure a perforated eardrum, and a doctor may advise that it will heal on its own, it can lead to further complications like infections that can become more serious – so always get it checked out. If the hole in your eardrum is more serious than usual, or it has become infected, then it may require a course of antibiotics or even surgery to repair.

How can I avoid perforating my eardrum?

As with many other illnesses, prevention is the most effective treatment against a perforated eardrum. As a result, the best way to prevent perforation is to avoid placing objects into your ears and to mitigate any situations that might cause damage to your eardrum. This can mean using ear defenders if you’re likely to be in regular contact with loud noises, avoiding flying if you have had an ear infection close to the date of your flight and following the relevant instructions given when undertaking pressure-sensitive activities. This can mean equalising properly when scuba diving or sucking on a sweet when flying, as advised.

A perforated eardrum is one of many common ailments that can affect our ears, and which can be very uncomfortable if left untreated.