Recovery After Ruptured Eardrum: What to Expect

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If you ruptured your eardrum, which is the thin membrane that separates your outer and inner ear, you may have ear pain, ringing in your ears, drainage, a feeling of spinning, or hearing loss. Recovery from a ruptured eardrum can take a while, but you can find relief from symptoms while you’re healing. Find out about ruptured eardrum recovery and what to expect about managing pain and regaining your hearing.

Teen girl has ear examined

Treatment for a Ruptured Eardrum

If you are having symptoms like ringing or ear pain, a doctor can examine your ear canal to confirm whether or not your eardrum is perforated. This means there is a hole or tear in the membrane. They will determine whether you need treatment after they check for infection and hearing loss. Most perforated eardrums will heal on their own, usually within a couple of months. If there is evidence of infection, the doctor can prescribe antibiotic drops for you.

If the eardrum does not heal by itself, a specialist in ear, nose, and throat conditions (ENT) can seal the hole using a simple process called a myringoplasty. This generally takes less than half an hour. They will patch the hole with a small piece of special paper or a gel foam that can promote healing. They may also apply other substances that help the body heal, like hyaluronic acid, platelet-rich plasma, or a fat graft. Occasionally, you will need to have the procedure done more than once.

In rare cases, surgery is necessary to repair a ruptured eardrum. The surgeon will patch the eardrum with a piece of your own tissue, which is called a tympanoplasty. It requires general anesthesia and takes 2 to 3 hours. You can expect to go home the same day. As your eardrum heals, your symptoms should fade and you should regain your hearing.

What You Can Do for Your Ruptured Eardrum 

At home, you can try several strategies to ease the pain of a ruptured eardrum, avoid further damage, and promote healing. Be careful with your injured ear while you do the following:

  • Place a clean, warm and dry cloth on your ear a few times a day or a heating pad set on the lowest setting.
  • Try over-the-counter pain medication but do not take more than directed. 
  • Avoid blowing your nose, which increases the pressure on your eardrum.
  • Never put anything in your ear, including cotton swabs or any instrument.
  • Only use ear drops provided by your doctor.

    Avoid getting water in your ear by bathing instead of showering, and don’t go swimming. Moisture can increase the chance of infection.
    It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months for your ruptured eardrum to heal. Rarely, a ruptured eardrum will cause permanent hearing loss, but in most cases, the eardrum heals and hearing returns. Follow your doctor’s advice until you have the all-clear that your perforated eardrum has healed.

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    Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
    Last Review Date: 2021 Dec 15
    View All Ear, Nose and Throat Articles
    THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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    2. Perforated Eardrum. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
    3. Ruptured eardrum. Mount Sinai.
    4. Ruptured Eardrum (Acutely Perforated Tympanic Membrane). Cleveland Clinic.
    5. Eardrum repair. MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.