Your eardrum, or the tympanic membrane, is what separates the outer ear from the inner ear. Once the sound waves pass through the eardrum, they can be converted into mechanical energy in the middle ear. Therefore, when the eardrum is perforated, the way your auditory system processes sound is disrupted. 

Signs and Symptoms of Damaged Ear Drums

Symptoms may include drainage from the ear, tinnitus, an earache, hearing loss and dizziness. If your eardrum is punctured, the degree by which your hearing is affected depends on the size of the hole in your eardrum and whether the damage leads to an infection or not. If an ear infection does occur or is the cause of the rupture, your symptoms may worsen and increase.


There are several things that can cause an eardrum to break, including:

  • Buildup of fluid from the middle ear infections
  • Loud noises such as gunshots or explosions
  • Foreign objects such as Q-tips or Bobby pins
  • Rapid changes in air pressure that may occur when diving in water or flying
  • Injury such as a skull fracture
  • Disorders in the Eustachian tube


When the hole is minor, you may experience some hearing loss and discomfort but your ear  usually heals itself naturally in a few weeks. However, to improve the treatment, you should keep the ear dry to help prevent infections by covering the ears when you take a shower or avoid swimming. In many cases, a perforated eardrum doesn’t require treatment; however, if you experience too much or prolonged pain, discomfort or hearing loss, the following treatments can solve the problem.

1. Painkillers

If you experience any pain, but your hearing care professional recommends letting the eardrum heal naturally, you can use over-the-counter painkillers to reduce the discomfort. 

2. Antibiotics  

If a middle ear infection damaged the eardrum or you are at risk of developing an infection after the rupture occurred, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics.

3. Surgery (Tympanoplasty)

Small punctures don’t usually require surgery; however, if your hearing care provider recommends it, a myringoplasty may be recommended. This is a simple procedure in which a small paper-like patch is applied over the hole to prevent an infection of the middle ear and encourage natural healing. The patch itself should be enough to return your hearing to normal levels and eliminate or reduce tinnitus. The procedure usually takes only 10-30 minutes.

Although a surgery is not needed majority of the time, it can be necessary if you have chronic ear infections untreatable by antibiotics or if the hole is large in size. The surgery can be performed in one of two ways: by making a tiny cut behind the ear or by going through the ear canal. The surgeon removes built-up scar tissue from the middle ear and patches the rupture with a piece of your muscle or vein tissue, grafting it onto the eardrum. The procedure lasts two to three hours at most.