Perforated Eardrum

Author thumbnail Laura James  |  Published 09 May 2024  | Updated 30 May 2024  | 4 mins read

Young Woman Suffering from Ear Pain Indoors.

What is a Perforated Eardrum?

A perforated eardrum, also known as a ruptured eardrum or burst eardrum happens when the tympanic membrane or eardrum becomes damaged. This can be in the form of a rupture, hole, or tear. They can be painful and come with a host of different symptoms as well as a range of complications such as hearing loss and infection. They usually heal themselves but occasionally you may need medication or surgery to treat a perforated eardrum.


There are a variety of symptoms you can experience from having a perforated eardrum although not everyone experiences symptoms and may only find out they have a perforated eardrum if they have their ears examined.

Symptoms usually only affect the ear in which the perforation occurs and while most are temporary – going away once your eardrum heals – some symptoms can continue depending on the nature and severity of the perforation.

Spinning vision.

The most common symptoms of a perforated eardrum include:

  • hearing loss
  • a ringing or buzzing sound in your ear (tinnitus)
  • earache or ear pain
  • itching in your ear
  • ear discharge – clear fluid, blood or pus leaking from your ear
  • feeling dizzy or vertigo
  • a high temperature – if the perforation is caused by infection or if infection occurs after perforation


There are multiple different possible causes of perforated eardrums. Symptoms of a perforated eardrum usually appear after:

  • Injury (such as getting hit on your ear)
  • Foreign objects
  • Loud noises
  • Sudden change in air pressure (such as flying on a plane)
  • Middle ear infection (otitis media).
  • Severe head trauma
Man with earache, ear pain at home.


Prevention is important when it comes to protecting your ears. And there are many ways that you can prevent having a perforated eardrum. 

  • Treat middle ear infections – Ear infections need to be treated to ensure they don’t become worse and potentially cause a ruptured eardrum. Antibiotics are typically prescribed to treat ear infections.
  • Keep your ears free of foreign objects – They say that nothing smaller than your elbow should go in your ear for a reason. Foreign objects such as cotton buds should not be used to clean your ears to prevent impacted earwax and damage to your eardrum or ear canal. 
  • Protect your ears during a flight – There are plenty of methods to help protect your ears from airplane ear, all of which will also help to relieve pressure in your middle ear which can also prevent perforated eardrums.
  • Guard against loud noise – Whether you work in construction or enjoy attending loud concerts, protecting your ears from sudden or explosive loud noises can prevent ruptured eardrums. Wearing ear plugs or appropriate ear protection can also help to protect your hearing. 


Because your eardrum is a live tissue, it typically will repair itself within 2 months and, in most cases, your hearing should return to normal. If you have an ear infection, or if your perforation has caused an ear infection, your GP may prescribe antibiotics to treat it.

In very severe cases in which your eardrum is not able to heal itself, you may be offered an eardrum patch (myringoplasty) in which a special gel or thin paper is placed over the holes in your tympanic membrane or a surgery where some of your own tissue is used to patch the hole in your eardrum (tympanoplasty).


Perforated eardrums can cause discomfort and affect your hearing as well as quality of life. However, thankfully, they are generally temporary and will heal on their own within 2 months. You may experience ear pain, hearing loss, dizziness or tinnitus with a perforated eardrum but some people don’t experience any symptoms at all. Severe cases can be treated using surgery and you may be prescribed antibiotics to help treat any related ear infections.


The severity of a perforated eardrum varies depending on the cause and size of the perforation and can range from mild to severe. With any perforated eardrum, you can be more prone to contracting an ear infection so ensure proper precautions are put in place. 

A perforated eardrum is not usually an emergency on its own however if it is caused by head trauma, it could be considered an emergency.

If you have symptoms of a perforated eardrum, it’s best to seek professional healthcare advice as it’s not always easy to self-diagnose. Instead, they can visually diagnose a hole in your eardrum or do further testing such as tympanometry (a test that measures how your eardrum moves) to confirm.

Try to sleep on the side with your unaffected ear or on your back to help minimise discomfort or pain. 

If your eardrums are healthy and you have no infections in your ears, it is unlikely that blowing your nose will rupture your eardrum. However excessive pressure can lead to perforation. 

The length of time that your ear will hurt will depend on the severity or cause of your perforated eardrum. If it hasn’t improved after a couple of months, make sure you see your GP or hearing care specialist.