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What is a ruptured eardrum?

A ruptured eardrum occurs when there is a tear or hole in the eardrum, which is a thin membrane that separates the ear canal from the middle ear. A rupture can occur from a foreign object entering the ear canal or from an abrupt change in air pressure, such as can occur while flying or deep sea diving. It also may occur due to loud noises. Symptoms may include hearing loss, ringing in the ears, blood or fluid coming from the ear, and pain or discomfort. Until healed, the hole in the eardrum makes infection more likely as the barrier between the ear canal and middle ear is perforated. Most ruptured eardrums heal on their own after several weeks. If they do not heal, a medical professional may have to insert a patch to stimulate growth over the hole. If that does not work, surgery may be required.

A ruptured eardrum is also known as a tympanic membrane perforation. It can be caused from a loud noise, differences in pressure inside and outside the eardrum, foreign objects in the ear, or injury to the ear. Symptoms include ear drainage, discomfort, pain, and hearing loss.

A ruptured eardrum can also put an athlete at risk for infection. If the rupture is not too severe, the eardrum can heal itself. If the rupture is severe, you may need surgery.

(This answer provided for NATA by the Georgia College & State University Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.