Eardrum Perforation (Tympanic membrane perforation)

A hole or rupture in the eardrum, a thin membrane that separates the ear canal and the middle ear, is called a perforated eardrum. The medical term for eardrum is tympanic membrane. A perforated eardrum can occur from trauma, infection, or chronic Eustachian tube disorders. A perforated eardrum from trauma can occur if the ear is struck directly, after an explosion, after a skull fracture, or if an object (such as a bobby pin, Q-tip, or stick) is pushed too far into the ear canal. On some occasions a small hole may remain in the eardrum after a previously placed pressure-equalizing (PE) tube falls out or is removed by the physician. A perforated eardrum is often accompanied by decreased hearing and sometimes discharge. Most eardrum perforations resulting from trauma or an acute ear infection heal on their own within weeks of rupture, although some may take several months to heal. During the healing process the ear must be protected from water and trauma. Eardrum perforations that do not heal on their own may require surgery. If the perforation is very small, it may be observed, or repaired in the office. Working with a microscope, your doctor may touch the edges of the eardrum with a chemical to stimulate growth and then place a thin paper patch on the eardrum. Usually with closure of the tympanic membrane, hearing is improved. There are a variety of surgical techniques for larger perforations, most involving grafting tissue such as fascia or cartilage across the perforation to allow healing. The name of this procedure is called tympanoplasty. Surgery is typically quite successful in repairing the perforation, restoring or improving hearing, and is often done on an outpatient basis.