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What Causes a Ruptured Ear Drum?


Updated May 29, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What Causes a Ruptured Ear Drum?


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Question: What Causes a Ruptured Ear Drum?

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
  • trauma

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.


Medline Plus. Ruptured Eardrum. Accessed: July 21, 2010 from

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