We cannot express enough the importance of hearing; after all it is one of the five senses. Imagine a world where individuals with normal hearing suddenly could not hear any more. Some ear conditions are very serious. A ruptured eardrum fortunately does not have to be one of them; but it still can come upon us as fast as a bolt of lightning or a blink of an eye.
What is a ruptured eardrum?
A ruptured eardrum is also known as tympanic membrane perforation, or a perforated eardrum. A perforated eardrum is caused by a tear in the lining which is a thin membrane that separates the outer ear from the inner ear. This tympanic membrane as it is called looks like a layer of skin.
What is the function of the eardrum?
The eardrum actually has two biological functions. It will sense vibrations which are sound waves. The eardrum then coverts these sound waves into nerve pulses that communicate with the brain.
The second function of the eardrum is to protect the inner ear from foreign substances and bacteria which can cause a middle ear infection known as otitis media. Otitis media is your common earache which is very common and children and adults can get it as well. Having a cold or flu can also cause an ear infection.
Symptoms of a ruptured eardrum
Sometimes there are no symptoms for a tympanic membrane perforation while other times there can be:
- sudden sharp pain in the ear
- air coming out of ear after blowing your nose
- sudden decease of pain in the ear
- liquid seeping out of the ear such as blood, pus, clear fluid
- buzzing sound or ear noise
- facial weakness
- ear infections
- hearing loss
Complications of a ruptured eardrum
A perforated eardrum may go away on its own without any treatment or it might require surgery or cause a middle ear infection. If not treated according to its severity, a tympanic membrane perforation may cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.
What causes a ruptured eardrum?
The most common cause of a perforated eardrum is an inner ear infection. The inner ear gets infected causing pressure to build up which can sometimes perforate or tear the eardrum. What happens next is the pain and pressure people feel may subside and is replaced with pus.
A second cause for tympanic membrane perforation is the poking of foreign objects into the ear. Children often shove little objects into the ear like a dime this understandably will cause the tympanic membrane to rupture.
Q-tips or cotton swabs can do the same thing. That is why it now advised that people do not clean their ears with these products.
Scuba divers and airplane travelers often suffer from a perforated eardrum when there is longer any balance between the inner and outside pressure of the ear while diving to the depths of the oceans or reaching very high altitudes in an airplane.
Very loud noise such as an explosion or injury to the ear including a slap on the ear can also cause a tympanic membrane perforation. Teens can easily have a tympanic perforated eardrum from very loud music.
Test for ruptured eardrum
The doctor may use a tuning fork or a test called an otoscopic exam which is the instrument you see the doctor normally use each time you have your ears tested. It has a light attached to it.
Treatment for ruptured eardrums
A ruptured eardrum usually heals on its own. However, in some cases the doctor will prescribe an anti-biotic or surgery. It usually takes about three months for a ruptured eardrum to heal. It is also important to keep the ear dry.