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Perforated ear drum

Category: Illness or disabilities



Introduction and description




A perforated eardrum or punctured eardrum -  is a rupture or perforation (hole) of the eardrum. 

For more general information about the ear and ear diseases in general see the section on Ear diseases.





A perforated eardrum may be a result of:

  • otitis media - ear infection, chronic infection over a long period may lead to permanent hearing loss
  • trauma - e.g. by trying to clean the ear with sharp instruments.  Perforations obtained in this way may cause permanent deafness or be very long in healing
  • physical abuse - hitting a small child round the ears, or receiving a blow on the ear during a fight say, may cause a rupture
  • explosion
  • loud noise 
  • surgery  - accidental creation of a rupture.  Perforations resulting from surgery are often very long in healing, and the perforation can last several years.  It may not heal naturally, but may require further intervention
  • flying with a cold -Flying with a severe cold causes the perforation when there are changes in air pressure in the cabin, but where the eustachian tubes resulting from the cold are blocked. This is especially true on landing. 

Occasionally parasites can perforate the ear drum, but if they do, they go on to create more damage.



The perforation may heal in a few weeks, or may take up to a few months, or as mentioned above may never heal. Some perforations require intervention. This may take the form of a paper patch to promote healing (a simple procedure by an ear, nose and throat specialist), or surgery (tympanoplasty).

Those with more severe ruptures may need to wear an ear plug to prevent water contact with the ear drum.

How it works

Perforated ear drums can result in auditory hallucinations - everything from music to single notes, depending on the extent of damage.  The reason is sensory deprivation.  The greater the deafness that results, the more varied the hallucinations.

Related observations