Perforated eardrum

Introduction

A perforated eardrum is a hole or tear in the eardrum. It may be uncomfortable but usually heals on its own without treatment within two months.

The eardrum, also known as the tympanic membrane, is a thin layer of tissue that separates the outer ear from the middle ear.

If you have a perforated eardrum, your hearing will probably be affected and you will have earache. Any hearing loss is usually temporary. Read more about the symptoms of a perforated eardrum.

There are several possible causes of a perforated eardrum. The most common cause is an infection of the middle ear. It can also be caused by a loud noise or injury to the ear.

If you have a perforated eardrum, avoid getting your ear wet and take painkillers as required. Surgery may be necessary in severe cases. Read more about treating a perforated eardrum.

When to get medical help

See your GP if you have pain or discomfort in your ear for more than a couple of days.

The ear

The ear consists of three parts:

  • the outer ear
  • the middle ear
  • the inner ear

The outer ear is made up of the visible part of the ear (pinna) on the side of your head, the ear canal that goes into your head, and the eardrum.

The middle ear is a small, air-filled cavity, connected to the nose and throat by the eustachian tube. Inside the middle ear there are three small bones, known as the ossicles.

The inner ear is made up of:

  • a coiled, spiral tube (the cochlea) that contains two fluid-filled chambers
  • a nerve that transmits sounds to the brain (auditory nerve)
Last updated: 09 November 2012

Continue to next section: Symptoms of a perforated eardrum