A perforated eardrum occurs when there is an opening in the
membrane that separates the ear canal from the middle ear.
What is going on in the body?
The eardrum is the dividing line between the external and middle ear. The
external ear is formed by the auricle, which is the external ear flap, and the
external ear canal. The middle ear is the air-filled space behind the eardrum
that contains the three small bones for hearing. The eardrum is an important
barrier between the environment and the middle ear. It also vibrates to
transmit sound, part of the normal hearing mechanism.
The eardrum may be ruptured due to trauma, such as a
sharp blow to the external ear. It can also rupture when pressure builds up in
the middle ear and pushes the eardrum outward.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Following are some of the common causes of a ruptured eardrum:
changes in barometric pressure, caused by activities such as flying in a
plane or scuba diving
infections, especially if the infections are severe
holes left in the eardrum when ear tubes have fallen out and the eardrum doesn't repair itself
insertion of cotton applicators or other small objects into the ear canal
trauma, such as sports injuries that cause a blow to the side of the head
welding burns from hot slag entering the ear canal
Sometimes, the eardrum is deliberately perforated when
ear tubes are placed. A surgeon places these small tubes into the eardrum when
a person has chronic ear infections. They allow drainage of infected material
from the middle ear and lower the pressure within the middle ear.