What is the Ear Drum?The ear drum is located between the outer and middle ear and is a round membrane covered by a thicker protective layer of skin tissue that vibrates as sound waves pass through the ear passing on the sound to the delicate bone structures of the deeper anatomy of the ear.
What is a Perforated Ear Drum?When the eardrum splits, is cut or sufferers from a tear, this is known as a perforation.The degree of injury can vary from a tiny hole to a very noticeable split.
How does a Perforation Occur?The most common reason why a perforation happens is due to an infection of the ear. As fluid builds-up in the spaces of the outer or middle ear, the pressure is increased and as more fluid collects in such a tiny space, the tissues of the eardrum can split or tear as a consequence.Another possibility is due to the introduction of a foreign body into the ear. This is often more common in young children who are prone to exploring their body using implements inserted in their ears and nose.
When occurring in adults, it is normally due to excessive force of using an instrument to clean the ears of wax, a procedure that is not recommended. Implements used for this usually include hairgrip, cocktail sticks of matches. Cleaning of the ears using any type of equipment is strongly frowned upon by professionals.
Other less common causes of suffering from a perforated ear drum include exposure to sudden and very loud noises, such as gunfire or explosion, or because of a sudden change in external atmospheric pressures when the structures of the ear cannot adjust fast enough.
Symptoms of a PerforationThe most common symptoms experienced by those with a perforation include a reduction in hearing ability and earache or pain.Sometimes there may be a discharge from the ear or bleeding if perforation is caused a foreign body.When infection is present there may be a chance of discharge from the ear in the form of pus or infectious fluids. As ear infections are usually caused by a common cold, congestion, temperature, weakness and headaches are also likely, though these symptoms are more often associated with the head cold and not from the ear infection.Occasionally, especially after exposure to a loud noise, tinnitus will be experienced though this may be very short-lived or may come and go for a short while.
Treatment OptionsMost perforations of the eardrum will heal themselves over time like any other cut or graze on the body.Ask your GP to check the condition of the perforation around 2 to 3 weeks after the injury occurred. If any infection is still present, this will often require the use of anti-biotics, and once the infection has cleared up, the perforation will be able to heal. If after this time the perforation is still very apparent, surgery may be required and a myringoplasty will be performed, which involves grafting a piece of skin, usually taken from another part of the ear, over the hole.Whilst a perforation is healing, pain relief may be taken and care should be exercised not to get fluids in the ear.
Ear perforation, although usually not serious can cause discomfort for the sufferer. Normally treating the cause of the perforation is enough to allow the perforation to heal itself.