What happens when you burst your eardrum?

A burst eardrum, otherwise known as a perforated eardrum, is a hole in the eardrum. This condition is most common in children, and it can often happen as a consequence of an ear infection. However, this can happen to adults of any age. You could end up experiencing temporary hearing loss as a consequence. If you would like to find out more about what happens if you burst your eardrum and whether or not treatment is required, read on to discover everything you need to know.

Some of the causes of a burst eardrum

A burst eardrum, or perforated eardrum, is basically an eardrum with a hole in it. There are a number of reasons for this. This includes the following:

  • A sudden loud noise, for instance, an explosion
  • Changes in pressure, for example, when scuba diving or when flying
  • An injury to your eardrum. For example, this could happen when poking an object like a cotton bud deeply into your ear or when experiencing a blow to your ear
  • An ear infection

Is there anything you can do to avoid a perforated eardrum?

While there are some instances whereby suffering from a perforated eardrum may be unavoidable, there are actually a number of things you can do to avoid this from happening. This includes the following:

  • When you are flying, try either sucking on a boiled sweet, chewing gum, yawning, or swallowing when the plane is taking off or landing.
  • if you are exposed to loud noises on a regular, you should wear a suitable protection for your ears.
  • Do not push anything deep into your ears, fingers included!
  • See a GP for treatment if you have symptoms of an ear infection that last for more than two or three days.

What are the symptoms of a perforated eardrum?

You may be wondering whether or not you are experiencing eardrum perforation. There are a number of different signs that can indicate that your eardrum is perforated. This includes the following:

  • A buzzing or ringing in your ear, known as tinnitus
  • A high temperature
  • Fluid leaking from your ear
  • Itching in your ear
  • Earache or pain in your ear
  • Sudden hearing loss, which can mean you find it challenging to hear anything or that your hearing has become somewhat muffled

The symptoms will tend to pass after your eardrum has healed or you have had the infection treated.

Should you see a GP if your eardrum has burst?

If you think you have a perforated eardrum, you should see a GP. You should also book an appointment with your GP if you have already seen a doctor and your symptoms are not improving after a few weeks or if you have developed new symptoms. Examples include fluid leaking from your ear, itching, a fever, or an earache.

Your eardrum will typically heal without any treatment being required. However, a GP will be able to check for an infection, which may require treatment, and they will speak with you about how they are going to look after your ear.

They will use a small handheld torch that has a magnifying lens on it to look into your ear. The tip will then go inside your ear. This will not hurt, though, as it will only go into your ear a little bit.

What sort of treatments are there for a burst eardrum?

If you have an infection in your ear that has been caused by a burst eardrum, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. However, if your eardrum does not heal within a few weeks or the hole in your eardrum is too large, the GP may refer you to a specialist who will talk you through the option of potentially having surgery to repair your damaged eardrum.

Are there any things you can do if you have a burst eardrum?

You do not always need to have treatment for a perforated eardrum. This is because they can often improve themselves within a matter of weeks. There are also a few things that you can do to encourage the healing process. This includes the following:

  • If you are experiencing any pain, we recommend that you take a painkiller, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, in order to reduce these feelings. However, if it is a child that is experiencing this pain, please make sure you do not give them aspirin. Aspirin should never be given to anyone under the age of 16-years-old.
  • Hold a warm cloth to your ear to aid in lowering any pain that you may be experiencing.
  • Try not to blow your nose too hard, as this can cause more damage to your eardrum while it heals.
  • Do not get any water inside of your ear. Be extra careful while washing your hair or showering. Also, do not go swimming.
  • Do not put anything inside your ear, such as eardrops or cotton buds. Of course, if your doctor recommends eardrops, you should follow his orders. Otherwise, though, do not put anything in your ears.

Surgery for a perforated eardrum

Surgery to repair an eardrum that has burst tends to be done under general anaesthesia at a hospital. Throughout the procedure, you can expect a small cut to be made either behind or in front of your ear, with a small piece of tissue then being removed from under your skin. This will result in a little scar, which can typically be covered by your hair.

Small surgical instruments are used to patch the hole in your eardrum,. This can be done via your ear opening or through a small cut made next to your ear. A dressing will be placed in your ear to hold the patch in place and prevent water and germs from getting inside. This tends to stay in place for between two and three weeks.

The doctor will place cotton wool padding over your ear, and it will be held in place with a bandage. Stitches are used to close the cuts in your skin. Once your operation is finished, you should be able to go home the same day. In some cases, you may need to stay overnight.

After you have had the surgery, it will typically take a few weeks for it to heal. A follow-up appointment for approximately two to three weeks following your surgery will be organised. This is simply to check that everything is healing correctly. If dissolvable stitches have not been used, your stitches will be removed at this appointment. Make sure you follow your doctor’s advice for the healing process so that you can recover quickly and efficiently.

Final words on eardrum perforation

So, there you have it: everything that you need to know about eardrum perforation. We hope that the information we have provided you with in this blog post has helped you to get a better understanding of this condition and some of the signs and symptoms associated with it. If you suspect that you have a perforated eardrum, the best thing you can do is get in touch with a specialist sooner rather than later so that they can assess the size of the hole and whether or not you will need treatment.

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