A ruptured eardrum occurs when the thin membrane that separates the middle and outer ear (called the eardrum or tympanic membrane) is torn. Causes of a ruptured eardrum include:
- ear infections
- rapid changes in ambient pressure (called barotrauma)
- loud noises
- foreign objects like pencils or bobby pins inserted into the ear which can puncture the eardrum
Ruptured eardrums can be painful at the time of rupture and are sometimes followed by a feeling of relief if the rupture is due to high pressure. Symptoms of a ruptured ear drum can include fluid draining from the ear, ear pain, sudden hearing loss or dizziness.
The treatment of a ruptured ear drum is not usually complicated. In most cases the ear drum will heal on its own. You shuld see a doctor however, especially if you suspect an ear infection or if hearing loss, or persistent drainage is involved. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen are often helpful for pain. In very severe (rare) cases the eardrum may have to be surgically repaired.