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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Ruptured Eardrum
      Category : Health Centers > Ears and Hearing Disorders

Ruptured Eardrum

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

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
  • ear 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
  • previous ruptures
  • sudden explosion
  • trauma, such as sports injuries that cause a blow to the side of the head
  • tuberculosis
  • 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.


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    Ruptured Eardrum: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Mark Loury, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 08/09/01

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