About Damaged Tympanum :
Damage to the tympanum is also known as ruptured eardrum or perforated tympanic membrane. The tympanum is a thin membrane that separates the outer ear from the inner ear. It is interesting to note that the tympanum is made up of a tissue which resembles the skin. Damage to the tympanum occurs almost suddenly. There may be sudden ear pain or abrupt disappearance of a pain that was there for quite sometime or no symptoms at all. Damage to the tympanum can lead to complications such as hearing loss and middle ear infections.
How is Damage to Tympanum Caused?
The most common cause of damage to the tympanum is infection of the ear. If the infection reaches the middle ear, there is excessive build up of pressure which pushes against the ear drums. As the pressure becomes more, the ear drum may perforate. Once the ear drum gets perforated, there is release of pressure and pus which causes sudden disappearance of the pain.
Other causes of damage to the tympanum, is physically harming the ear drum. This occurs while using ear buds, hair clips, tooth pick etc. for cleaning the ear canals. Inserting foreign objects into the ear canal can cause accidental poking of the ear drum leading to perforation. Children can rupture their ear drums by inserting toys, sticks etc.
Rupture of the ear drum can also occur from barotrauma. Barotrauma is a situation where the pressure inside the ears is not equal to the pressure outside the ears. This difference in air pressure occurs with change in altitude. This is usually experienced while flying in an aeroplane, during scuba diving and mountain climbing.
Other causes of damage to tympanum include injury or physical trauma such as ear slaps during an accident, sports or fights. Exposure to loud noises (listening to music at high volume, construction sites, explosions etc.) can also cause damage to the tympanum. In some instances, a small hole or a perforation may be noted after a previously placed PE tube (pressure equalizing tube) is removed or falls out of its place.
Does a Damaged Tympanum Need a Surgery?
In most of the cases, the ear drum repairs by itself within 3 months provided the ears are kept protected. In severe cases, surgical intervention is warranted. In most of the cases, an antibiotic is prescribed (either in the form of ear drops or oral meds). This is given to prevent relapse of an infection and for treating any existing ear infection. Over the counter pain killers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) are often prescribed to manage pain in the ears (if any). Warm compresses over the ears can provide adequate relief. In some cases, if the healing process takes too long, the doctor may place a patch over the ear drums.
Surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis. The surgery lasts for couple of hours and the doctor attaches a piece of your own tissue to the ear drums. Surgery is usually recommended for large perforations and perforations that involve edges of the eardrums. Severe rupture from infection may also require surgical repair.
What are the Risk Factors for Damage to Tympanum?
The possible risk factors that increase the chances of damaging the ear drums are listed below:
- Recurrent infection of the middle ear
- Exposure to loud noises or sounds
- Trauma or injury to the ear
- Sudden fluctuation in air pressure (such as while flying, scuba diving etc).
How to Identify Damaged Tympanum?
Symptoms of damage to the tympanum vary from one person to another. In some cases, there may not be any symptoms and the person doesn’t realize that something maybe wrong. In some cases, the affected person visits a doctor after several days of being in discomfort. In cases they may feel that the air is coming out through the ears while blowing their nose. Some may hear sounds much louder than usual. Other symptoms may include:
- Sudden increase or decrease in ear pain
- Drainage form ear canal which may be clear, blood stained or pus like
- Constant buzzing or ringing in the ears
- Loss of hearing which may be partial or complete
- Repeated episodes of ear infections
- Weakness in the face area.
It is very essential to identify damage to tympanum at the earliest and proper treatment is taken in order to prevent infection from occurring or preventing the worsening of the infection and pain.
- “Perforated Eardrum: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment” – Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ruptured-eardrum/symptoms-causes/syc-20351879)
- “Ruptured Eardrum (Perforated Tympanic Membrane)” – Cleveland Clinic (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14197-ruptured-eardrum-perforated-tympanic-membrane)
- “Eardrum Perforation: Causes and Treatment” – American Academy of Otolaryngology (https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/eardrum-perforation-causes-and-treatment/)
- “Barotrauma” – Johns Hopkins Medicine (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/barotrauma)
- “Noise-Induced Hearing Loss” – National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss)