Ruptured Eardrum

Health Insurance Plans starting at Rs.15/day*

Health Insurance Plans starting at Rs.15/day*

A ruptured eardrum is a sudden phenomenon that causes a sharp tear or hole in your eardrum. It causes piercing pain in your ear and eventually goes away once rectified. Sometimes, it is also possible that you may not even feel anything.  

The ruptured eardrum is commonly known as a perforated eardrum or tympanic membrane perforation. Most of the time, it gets rectified easily, but sometimes it requires surgical intervention to repair it.  

What is a ruptured eardrum?

An eardrum is a thin layer or membrane that separates your inner and outer ears. The eardrum, also known as the tympanic membrane, is made of soft tissues that serve two crucial functions in your ear.

One, it is responsible for converting vibrating sound waves into nerve pulses and transmitting them to your brain. This helps your brain understand the conveyed information through sound.  

Two, it acts as a protective layer for your middle ear by keeping your middle ear safe from possible infections, entering of water and other foreign bodies.  

If a tear, hole or damage of any sort happens to your eardrum, it is called a ruptured eardrum. A ruptured eardrum leads to hearing loss or makes your middle ear susceptible to infections.  

What causes a ruptured eardrum?  

What causes a ruptured eardrum?

Various events lead to the ruptured eardrum. Some of the common causes that damage your eardrum are:

Middle ear infection: The infection in your middle ear leads to the accumulation of fluids and pus inside the ear. This exerts tremendous pressure on your eardrum. Since your eardrum is nothing but a soft membrane, this pressure may lead to a tear or break in it.  

Barotrauma: Air pressure plays a major role in the ruptured eardrum. When the pressure inside your ear does not match with the pressure outside, it creates a change in pressure.  

The air tends to move from a high-pressure zone to a low-pressure zone. This movement causes a tear in your eardrum and ruptures it.  

This normally happens inside the airplane’s cabin when it flies at different altitudes. If you indulge in scuba diving or driving to hill stations, you will also experience this change in pressure.  

Entering foreign objects: The ruptured eardrum is also caused due to poking your ear or entering foreign objects inside your ear. Sometimes, the usage of earbuds can cause potential damage to your eardrum.  

Many people try to remove ear wax with hairpins and other things that are very dangerous and make your eardrum susceptible to a possible tear.  

Acoustic trauma: Acoustic trauma arises from exposure to sudden loud sounds that produce shock waves. It has the high potential to tear your eardrums. Some of the possible causes include gunshots and sudden blasts.  

Head trauma: A severe head injury can potentially damage various parts of your ear, including the thin membrane of the eardrum. Likewise, a sharp slap can also cause a ruptured eardrum.  

What are the symptoms of a ruptured eardrum?

The symptoms of a ruptured eardrum are not always noticeable. Some people experience a sharp pain in the ear as soon as the eardrum ruptures. For some others, the case is different. They do not notice any symptoms for several days.  

Some people, while blowing their nose, may experience the release of air through their ears. That air rushes out from the tear or hole in your eardrum upon blowing your nose.  

It is interesting to note that a ruptured eardrum is not always associated with sharp pain. On the contrary, it also relieves the ear pain that persists.  

If you have a middle ear infection, you will accumulate fluids inside your ear. This pile-up of fluids causes throbbing pain in the ear.  

But when your eardrum breaks due to the pressure of fluids, the pus will come out of your ear and relieve you from the persisting pain.  

Some other common ruptured eardrum symptoms include:

  • Shooting pain in your ears
  • Sudden release of ear pain
  • Buzzing in the ear
  • Partial or complete hearing loss
  • Ear infections
  • Dizziness and weakness
  • Release of pus
  • Dripping of blood
  • Vertigo (spinning sensation)
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you experience any of the symptoms of a ruptured eardrum for a long time, or if the ruptured eardrum symptoms are highly discomforting, you need to visit a doctor.  

What are the complications of a ruptured eardrum?  

What are the complications of a ruptured eardrum?

If your eardrum is ruptured, its complications vary from mild to severe. Some of them are:

Hearing loss: A tear or hole in your eardrum may lead to hearing loss. But this is just temporary until the damage is rectified.

Middle ear infection: As we already know, the eardrum protects your middle ear from possible invasion of bacteria from outside. But ruptured eardrum makes your middle ear susceptible to infection. If the infection becomes severe, it can even lead to hearing loss.

Middle ear cyst: Normally, the debris from the ear canal passes to the outer ear with the help of wax. But the damage to the eardrum may divert its flow to the middle ear. This leads to the formation of a cyst in your middle ear. This is an unlikely scenario, but it can still happen.  

How are ruptured eardrums diagnosed?

Your doctor performs various diagnosis practices to identify and confirm whether you suffer from a ruptured eardrum.  

  • The doctor tests your fluid sample to check for possible infections
  • An otoscope exam—with the usage of a specialised device with light to check your ear canal
  • Tympanometry—using a tympanometer, the doctor checks your eardrum’s response to changing pressures
  • An audiology exam—examining your eardrum’s capacity and hearing range

What are the treatments available for ruptured eardrums? 

What are the treatments available for ruptured eardrums? 

People generally have some sort of question like, can a ruptured eardrum heal on its own? And what is the healing time of a ruptured eardrum?  

Normally, a ruptured eardrum heals on its own. You do not need specific treatments to cure it. It usually takes up to 3 months to heal.  

Your doctor may generally prescribe certain antibiotics to prevent further infections. If you develop any serious discomfort or pain, your doctor will prescribe over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.  

You may now ask, what if it doesn’t heal naturally? In that case, your doctor may recommend apt treatments based on the severity of the condition and the type of symptoms you develop.  

If the tear or hole in your eardrum does not heal naturally, your doctor may go with patching. Patching is nothing but smearing a medicated paper over the tear. This helps in accelerating the healing process.  

In some rare cases, your doctor may prescribe tympanoplasty. It is the surgery that is carried out to patch the tear or hole in the eardrum. Here, your doctor smudges the tear in your eardrum using the extracted tissue from some other area of your body.  

Keep these in mind while recovering from a ruptured eardrum.

If you have a ruptured eardrum, it will take some time to heal, either with or without treatment. In the meantime, you need to be cautious about letting your eardrum heal completely.  

Some precautions that you can follow are as follows,

  • Do not go swimming or diving
  • Use ear-plugs or cover your ears with cotton balls while taking a shower
  • Do not use medications other than what is prescribed by your doctor
  • Cover your ear from cold air using ear caps
  • Do not blow your nose as it will mount up pressure

How can a ruptured eardrum be prevented?

By knowing all the causes of a ruptured eardrum, you can prevent it from happening easily.  

For instance, do not take any foreign objects close to your eardrum. We do not willingly put foreign bodies inside the ear, but you may tend to clean your ears with a needle or some sharp objects. Avoid using them. Instead, use an earbud with a cotton tip.  

Some prevention steps include,

  • Monitor and treat your ear infections promptly
  • Cover your ears with an earplug while flying
  • Guard your ears against noises and explosive sounds
  • If you work in a noisy environment, protect your ears with respective ear covers or plugs

An outlook

A ruptured eardrum, though not a serious condition, indeed causes mild to severe discomforts and pain. It may also lead to hearing loss, but often it is a temporary phenomenon.  

But a ruptured eardrum paves the way for ear infections that can cause concern.  

If you know the possible causes that lead to a ruptured eardrum, you can protect yourself by following certain ways to prevent it.  

The ruptured eardrum is more common in children because of its sensitive membrane. In addition, they play with various objects that create a high possibility of entering into the ears and damaging them.  

As a parent, you need to monitor and take steps if your child experiences even the slightest discomfort or pain in the ears.  


1. Which side should I sleep on with a ruptured eardrum?  

If you have a damaged eardrum on any one of the ears, sleep on the opposite side. But, if you have a ruptured eardrum on both ears, just lay flat on your back and keep your heal in an elevated position by keeping an extra pillow under your head.

2. How to treat a ruptured eardrum in a child?

First, take your child to the ENT doctor. The doctor will prescribe some drops. In addition, clean any fluid discharge from your child’s ears and cover the ears with a soft cotton ball while giving a bath.  

3. Can you still hear with a ruptured eardrum?  

A ruptured eardrum may lead to hearing loss, but not always. You can still hear even if you have a ruptured eardrum as long as it does not affect you to the extent that leads to loss of hearing.  

Even if you lose your hearing, it will get normalised in some days as the ruptured eardrum heals.  

4. What not to do when you have a ruptured eardrum?  

The following are some things you need to avoid when you have a ruptured eardrum:

  • Do not go swimming or diving
  • Do not take a shower without covering your ears
  • Do not use medications other than what is prescribed by your doctor
  • Do not expose your ears to cold air
  • Do not blow your nose as it will mount up pressure

5. Do eardrums grow back?  

If you have a ruptured eardrum, even without treatment, it will heal naturally. It means that the tear or hole will grow back to normal.  

If not, then doctors facilitate the healing of your eardrum by patching the tear with a medicated paper.  

It is only in some rare cases when doctors go for surgical treatments.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top