How to fix a perforated eardrum


A perforated eardrum is a hole or tear in the thin membrane between your ear canal and the middle ear. It can be caused by a direct trauma to the ear, such as when flying, swimming, or using a Q-tip too aggressively. It can also be caused by an infection, tumors, an explosive noise, or a change in ear pressure. If left untreated, a perforated eardrum can cause serious problems, such as hearing loss, dizziness, and drainage.

Fortunately, it can often be fixed with simple treatments and home remedies. In this article, we’ll discuss what you can do to treat and prevent a perforated eardrum:

What is a Perforated Eardrum?

A perforated eardrum is a tear or hole in the ear’s tympanic membrane, which separates the outer and middle ear. It is commonly caused by a middle ear infection or trauma to the eardrum, such as from excessive cleaning or inserting a large object that damages the membrane. In some cases, it can also be caused by loud noises.

Symptoms of a perforated eardrum include hearing loss, a ringing noise (tinnitus), dizziness and pain. If left untreated, more serious complications can occur including an increased risk of chronic infections and impaired speech and balance.

Corrective actions for treating a perforated eardrum vary depending on the severity of the injury, but repair options may include:

  • Antibiotics to fight infection;
  • Patching with adhesive material;
  • Placement of body fat into the space in between membranes;
  • Plugging with wax;
  • Minor reconstructive surgery; or
  • Tissue grafts to help stimulate growth across defect areas.

To find out if you have suffered an injury to your ear’s tympanic membrane, it is best to consult an ENT physician or audiologist for diagnosis.

Symptoms of a Perforated Eardrum

A perforated eardrum, also known as a tympanic membrane perforation, is a tear or hole in the thin membrane separating the outer ear from the middle ear. Any size hole in the eardrum is considered problematic and usually requires medical care. Though uncommon, this condition can occur due to certain infections, injury or trauma to the ear, or a burst of pressure against the eardrum such as air pressure during flying or scuba-diving.

Common symptoms of a perforated eardrum may include:

  • Pain (sometimes severe) in the affected ear.
  • Discharge of pus or other fluids from the ear.
  • Loss of hearing in one ear (sometimes temporary).
  • Dizziness/balance problems/ringing in ears (tinnitus).
  • Increased sensitivity to sound.

It is important for anyone experiencing any of these symptoms to seek medical care immediately – especially if there is drainage from their ears.


Diagnosing a perforated eardrum can be done by using an otoscope to look inside the ear and determine if there is a tear or hole in the eardrum. Your doctor may also use a tuning fork to help diagnose a perforated eardrum. This involves having the doctor place the tuning fork in a specific spot on the eardrum. If the eardrum is perforated, the sound will be heard louder in the affected ear than in the normal ear.

How to Diagnose a Perforated Eardrum

In order to diagnose a perforated eardrum, a healthcare provider should perform various tests. One of the most common methods is otoscopy, which is the use of an instrument that looks into the ear to evaluate its shape, size, and condition. An audiometer may also be employed to measure hearing levels and detect any possible infections. Other tests such as CAT scans or MRI scans may be used to confirm or rule out any suspicious findings.

The healthcare provider will also ask you questions concerning your symptoms and medical history in order to determine what might have caused the perforation. They may also recommend additional treatments or medications depending on their findings from your tests and evaluations. In some cases, the healthcare provider may refer you to an ENT specialist for further treatment.

It is important for those with a suspected eardrum perforation have it evaluated by a healthcare professional as soon as possible in order to determine if it is actually present and decide upon an appropriate course of treatment. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, it is often possible to heal the perforated eardrum successfully without any permanent damage or hearing loss.

Different Types of Tests for Diagnosis

When it comes to diagnosing a perforated eardrum, there are several tests that can be used. Typically, the doctor will start with an otoscopy to look in the ear. This involves using a lighted instrument to inspect the area. If a tear is visible, they may then proceed to one of the following tests:

  1. Weber Test: The doctor will create a sound wave through your ear and determine which side of your head it is louder. If the sound appears louder in the affected ear than in the healthy one, it likely indicates a tear in that ear’s eardrum.
  2. Rinne Test: This test creates two sound waves – one through air and another through bone conduction – to examine how well each side of your head conducts sound waves. Again, this can help determine if there is any disruption related to an underlying perforation in your eardrum.
  3. Acoustic Reflex Test: For this test, an instrument is used that measures muscle contractions associated with hearing at different frequencies and volumes while wearing headphones. If there is evidence of greater contraction on one side than on another, this could indicate damage or disruption due to an underlying perforation in your eardrum.
  4. Imaging Tests: Imaging tests such as CT scans or MRI scans can be used to get a detailed look at what’s happening inside your ears and identify any tears or other damage associated with them from a perforated eardrum.

Finally, if you are experiencing symptoms such as pain or infection related to an underlying issue such as a Perforated Eardrum, you should contact your doctor for further testing and treatment options as soon as possible for accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations of any underlying issues associated with this condition.


Perforated eardrums can be an uncomfortable, distressing experience. While it is possible for a perforated eardrum to heal without medical intervention, it is usually necessary to seek medical advice in order to ensure that the healing process is not unduly prolonged.

In this section, we will discuss the different treatment options available for repairing a perforated eardrum:

Medical Treatment

For a perforated eardrum, medical treatment may be necessary depending on the severity, size and location of the tear. In many cases, no surgery is required and the hole in the eardrum will heal on its own with proper care.

For more severe tears or if there is any possibility of infection or damage to other parts of your ear, your doctor may recommend a procedure called myringoplasty. This is a surgical procedure that involves patching the hole in your eardrum with tissue taken from elsewhere in your body or a special material inserted through the ear canal.

Other forms of medical treatment include:

  • Medications prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain or antibiotics to fight off infection.
  • Steroid therapy can also be used to speed up healing.
  • If fluid builds up behind the eardrum, a small tube may need to be inserted into the ear canal to drain it out.

These treatments should only be used after consulting with your doctor as each person’s situation is different. It’s important that you follow instructions from your physician carefully throughout any medical treatment you receive for a perforated eardrum.

Home Remedies

Home remedies for a perforated eardrum may be helpful when used in combination with medical therapy. Generally, home remedies are recommended to reduce inflammation and provide soothing comfort.

  • Sitz baths – Warm saltwater sitz baths can help reduce inflammation and pain without drugs or medications. Sitting in warm salt water for 10-15 minutes twice each day may help to reduce irritation and facilitate healing of the eardrum.
  • Cold compresses – Applying a cold compress (such as a damp cloth) over the affected ear can help to ease discomfort and provide temporary relief from symptoms. Hold the cold compress on the ear for 10-15 minutes at a time, up to three times each day.
  • Steam inhalation – Inhaling steam may help to open up clogged nasal passages while simultaneously easing pressure within the head and providing relief from earache. Practice steam inhalation by boiling some water in a saucepan, then place a towel over your head while you lean over the pan (at least one foot away) and inhale deeply through your nose for 5-10 minutes at a time, up to three times daily.
  • Ginger tea – Ginger may work as an anti-inflammatory agent, helping relieve inflammation of the middle ear caused by infection or other causes of perforation. To make ginger tea, add 2 teaspoons of freshly minced ginger root into boiling water and steep for 10-15 minutes before straining and drinking twice daily or as often as directed by your physician or healthcare provider.


Prevention is the best way to avoid a perforated eardrum. To prevent a perforated eardrum, it is important to take steps to protect your ear from loud noises, avoid putting anything inside your ear, and be cautious when using a Q-tip to clean your ear. Additionally, getting regular hearing tests can also help prevent a perforated eardrum.

Let’s dive into the details of prevention measures that can be taken:

Avoid Loud Noises

To prevent eardrum damage and reduce the risk of further perforation, it is important to avoid loud noises whenever possible. Both sudden and prolonged exposure to extreme noise levels can pose a risk for damage to your hearing and cause hearing loss over time. Be aware of your surroundings, wear appropriate protections such as earplugs or noise-canceling headphones when engaging in especially loud activities, and take regular breaks from noisy environments to limit potential harm.

Even milder sounds can be harmful if they are sustained at high volumes – any sound above 85 decibels (dB) has the potential to damage hearing if it is constant or repeated frequently over time. Sounds that may be safe at low levels such as speech may become harmful if amplified too easily, so it’s important to make sure you aren’t subjecting yourself to unnecessary levels of everyday noise.

Sources of high levels of sustained noise include:

  • Heavily trafficked roads
  • Concerts
  • Sporting events
  • Industrial machinery
  • Construction sites
  • Household appliances such as vacuum cleaners and blenders operating on maximum settings.

If your home environment is particularly loud due to the presence of many technological devices (such as television sets), consider a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for more comfortable listening at safe volume levels.

Wear Earplugs

Wearing earplugs when participating in activities that involve loud noise is one of the best methods to prevent a perforated eardrum. Music concerts, work-related industrial activities, and any other activity where loud noises are expected should be avoided or protection must be used.

Two of the most popular types of ear protection are:

  • Disposable foam earplugs which fit into the ear canal and help minimize sound levels without blocking out important conversations.
  • A custom-made in-ear monitor (IEM) which is usually manufactured from plastic and molded to fit perfectly in the wearer’s ear canal. They are generally more comfortable than conventional hearing protectors and offer superior protection against sound levels that can potentially damage an eardrum.

Avoid Swimming in Contaminated Water

Knowing what steps to take when swimming in water that may contain bacteria or be contaminated can help prevent ear infections or a perforated eardrum. Be careful when swimming under any type of water – such as a pool, lake, river, or ocean – even if it looks and smells clean.

  • Always wear protective earplugs while in water and take frequent breaks from the water to allow your ears to dry out.
  • Keep in mind that tightly fitted swim caps will also help keep bacteria-carrying water out of your ears.
  • Also, try not to dive too deep into the water since this could cause the force of the water pressure to enter your eardrum and cause it to rupture.
  • Lastly, try not to put any foreign objects inside your ears, such as cotton swabs, beads, hair pins or buttons, which can also damage the sensitive tissue of your inner ear.


It is important to remember that a perforated eardrum can cause hearing loss and other problems. If you believe you may have a perforated eardrum, it is important to seek medical attention so your doctor can assess the situation and make a diagnosis.

Perforated eardrums are usually not serious, but in some cases, they will require treatment. Your doctor may suggest surgery or other treatments to repair the hole in your eardrum. In some cases, a medication such as antibiotics may be necessary.

Regardless of the type of treatment chosen, it is important that you follow all instructions provided by your doctor for the most successful resolution. If you have any questions or concerns about treating your perforated eardrum, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before beginning any plan of action.

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