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Health Information For Parents
A perforated eardrum is a tear or hole in the ear’s tympanic membrane (the eardrum). A perforated eardrum is also called a ruptured eardrum.
A perforated (PER-fer-ate-id) eardrum can hurt, but most heal in a few days to weeks. If they don’t heal, sometimes doctors do a surgery to fix the hole.
The eardrum is a thin piece of skin-like tissue that’s stretched tight — like a drum — across the opening between the ear canal and the middle ear.
The outer ear funnels sound waves into the ear canal that hit the eardrum and make it vibrate. The middle ear and inner ear change the vibrations to signals that the brain senses as sounds.
A ruptured eardrum can’t vibrate as well as it should. This can cause a hearing problem, which often is temporary.
Many things can tear an eardrum, such as:
The typical first sign of a perforated eardrum is pain. A child might have:
Call the doctor right away if your child has any symptoms of a perforated eardrum. Even though most perforations heal on their own, it’s important to make sure any hearing loss is temporary.
Go to the emergency room right away if your child has:
To check for a perforated eardrum, doctors check the ear canal with a lighted instrument called an otoscope. Often, a doctor can see the tear and sometimes the tiny bones of the middle ear. In some cases, fluid draining from the ear can make it hard to see the eardrum.
The doctor also might:
Most perforated eardrums heal on their own in a few weeks without treatment. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help ease pain.
To help prevent or treat an infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. These might be a pill that your child swallows, but sometimes can be ear drops.
If the eardrum doesn’t heal on its own in a few weeks, an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist may recommend an eardrum patch. In this procedure, a doctor puts a paper patch over the hole. Doctors may need to do this a few times until the eardrum fully heals.
If these treatments don’t work, the ENT specialist might recommend a tympanoplasty. In this surgery, the surgeon attaches a small patch of the patient’s own tissue or a man-made material to close the eardrum tear.
While recovering from a perforated eardrum, kids should:
You can’t prevent all perforated eardrums, such as those caused by an infection. But some are avoidable.
To help prevent a rupture:
You’ll need a mirror to do it, but take a good look at your ear.
Your eardrum is a really important part of your ear.
Hearing loss happens when there is a problem with the ear, nerves connected to the ear, or the part of the brain that controls hearing. Someone who has hearing loss may be able to hear some sounds or nothing at all. To learn more, read this article for kids.
Hearing impairment occurs when there’s a problem with or damage to one or more parts of the ear. Find out its causes and what can be done to help correct it.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the ear canal that can be caused by different types of bacteria or fungi. Find out how to prevent or treat it.
How do you take care of your ears? Find out in this article for kids.
Ear injuries not only can affect a child’s hearing, but sense of balance too. That’s because our ears also help keep us steady on our feet.
Loud music can cause temporary and permanent hearing loss. Learn how to protect your ears so you won’t be saying, “Huh? What did you say?”
A middle ear infection happens when germs like bacteria and viruses get in your middle ear and cause trouble. Read this article to find out more.
You swam! You splashed! And now you have it: swimmer’s ear.
An earache requires a visit to the doctor’s office. Here’s what to do if your child complains of ear pain.
How does the eardrum work? Find out by trying this experiment.
Earwax helps protect the eardrum and fight infection. Parents shouldn’t attempt to remove earwax at home, as doing so risks damage to the ear canal and, possibly, a child’s hearing.
Is it OK to use cotton swabs to remove earwax?
Earbuds are basically a tiny pair of speakers that go inside the ears. They’re fine at low volumes, but they can cause permanent hearing loss if not used properly. Find out what’s safe (and not) in this article for teens.
Why do our ears make earwax? Find out in this article for kids.
Hearing problems can be overcome if they’re caught early, so it’s important to get your child’s hearing screened early and checked regularly.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the ear canal caused by many types of bacteria or fungi. Find out how to prevent it.
Ear infections are common among kids and, often, painful. Find out what causes them and how they’re treated.
Hearing is their main job, but it’s not all your earsÂ do. Find out all about them in this body basics article for teens.
The ears gather sounds from our environment and turn them into messages for the brain to decode. Learn more in this video about the ears.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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