Woman with ruptured eardrum pain

You may have heard a friend or family member talking about it: they had an ear infection, or went on a flight, and the pressure ruptured their eardrum. A ruptured eardrum sounds scary, but what is it, and how is it treated?

In This Article...

  1. What is a ruptured eardrum?
  2. What causes a ruptured eardrum?
  3. What are common ruptured eardrum symptoms?
  4. How do I treat ruptured eardrum pain?

What is a ruptured eardrum?

The eardrum is the membrane that separates the ear canal from the middle ear and subsequently the inner ear. Its purpose is to sense vibrating sound waves and transmit these vibrations to the inner ear. These sound waves are then converted into nerve impulses that move the sound from your ear to your brain. A ruptured eardrum is a tear in this membrane, leading to improper transmission of the soundwaves and leaving patients vulnerable to water and foreign bodies. 

What causes a ruptured eardrum?

Ruptured eardrums have a number of causes. The most common one is ear infections. When your middle ear is infected, pressure builds and pushes against the eardrum. If the pressure gets too high, it can cause the eardrum to perforate.

CEENTA Otolaryngologist Sajeev Puri, MD discusses ruptured eardrum pain

Another common cause is when the eardrum is poked with a foreign object, like a Q-tip, or other object used to clean earwax. This condition can also be caused when the pressure inside and outside the ear are not equal. For example, pressure changes can happen when scuba diving or when a plane ascends or descends. Head injuries or sudden loud noise can also rupture an eardrum. People should also be cautious around the pool, as a ruptured eardrum from diving is not uncommon.

”Now that summer is coming, injuries in the pool while playing and when diving can lead to eardrum ruptures,” CEENTA ENT doctor Sajeev Puri, MD, said. “It is important to have these evaluated as soon as possible to prevent infections and other problems.”

What are common ruptured eardrum symptoms?

Symptoms of ruptured eardrums vary. When caused by an ear infection, for example, you may actually notice the pain and pressure you felt from the infection improve after the rupture. You may also see pus or blood drain from the ear. Other people might not notice any symptoms at all, while others might complain of general discomfort. Some people will notice sudden increases or decreases in ear pain. They may notice a buzzing or hearing loss. They may also have ear infections or dizziness.

If you or your doctor suspects a ruptured eardrum, it is imperative to have this evaluated as soon as possible to prevent complications. Typically the physician will use an otoscope to inspect your ear. They may also test your hearing to determine if you have any hearing loss from the ruptured eardrum. Most of the time hearing loss is temporary.

How do I treat ruptured eardrum pain?

When the rupture is traumatic and small, in the vast majority of cases it will heal on its own in about three months. Your doctor may give you antibiotic drops or recommend over-the-counter painkillers for infections or pain, respectively. It is important not to use any drops that have alcohol, which can cause severe pain and loss of hearing, or medications that are known to cause hearing loss.

If the rupture is large or has been present for a long time, it may not heal and may require surgical intervention. In these cases your doctor will use either a paper patch or your own tissue to patch the hole in the eardrum. This is an outpatient procedure and is usually completed in a few hours.

It’s important to keep your ear dry while it heals. You shouldn’t swim, and you should wear a shower cap while showering.

Ruptured eardrums can be troubling, but knowing the signs and getting care right away can get your eardrums back to top condition in no time.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. If you think you have a ruptured eardrum and would like to make an appointment with one of CEENTA’s Ear, Nose, and Throat physicians, call 704-295-3000 or schedule online.


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February 01, 2021

I got my ear blocked in one fine morning and started pain also. When I visited ent specialist ,have been told its fangled infection and she cleaned it with some instrument. I saw some blood stains also in her cotton swab in the last.My pain got increased and next day I got some liquid discharge and pain went awY. I visited again to ent ,she said there is a tiny hole in yr ear drum which will heal on its own within a few weeks. Was she true or should I show to some other ent
- Meena chugh

February 02, 2021

Good morning. If you have any doubts about your health, we recommend getting a second opinion from another doctor. If you live in the Charlotte, NC, region and would like an appointment with a CEENTA doctor, visit www.ceenta.com/appointments. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

March 21, 2020

Hello. I want to know that how much time I feel the pain if my eardrum has been ruptured then. And also I would like to know that is it possible in case of eardrum ruptured that we can feel vibration in the ear during speaking?? Please someone reply me fast. I'm very scared...
- George

March 23, 2020

Good morning. Unfortunately, we can't make a diagnosis without seeing patients in person. We recommend making an appointment with your primary care provider, who can refer you to a specialist if necessary. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

December 17, 2019

I have a rather large hole in one eardrum left from ear tubes. One ENT dr. says to wait 6 weeks and if it closes 50% he can patch in office. Another ENT dr. wants to repair in hospital using skin above ear. First dr. has 27 yrs. experience. Second one has 7 years experience. Need advice. Hearing loss and tinnitus. Scared. Already been 12 weeks since tubes came out.
- Judy Peterson

December 17, 2019

Good morning. While we can't offer diagnoses without seeing a patient in person, if you live in the Charlotte region one of our doctors would be happy to examine you. If you would like an appointment, please call 704-295-3000.
Reply From: CEENTA

May 11, 2019

Can either a VNG or ABR test rupture an ear drum?
- Shoshana

May 13, 2019

Good morning. It is extraordinarily unlikely that either test would rupture an eardrum.
Reply From: CEENTA

May 08, 2019

I have a busted eardrum for 3 weeks now but I go to the Ent tomorrow at 3 and I’m about to find out about all this!!! Thank god!! I can’t wait to get some answers!!! I’m bugging me!!!! I’ll write back on here soon about mine!! Let y’all know!!
- Debra

May 03, 2019

I got punched in the ear now my ear feels like I'm in a airplane,,my hearing sound muffled ,,it's been two weeks since that incident,,is that a sign of an ruptured eardrum
- State Hospital worker

May 03, 2019

Good morning. Unfortunately, we cannot diagnose patients over the Internet. We recommend making an appointment with a doctor for an exam. If you would like to make one at CEENTA, please call 704-295-3000.
Reply From: CEENTA

April 06, 2019

I have had my ear drum since yesterday and i do not have medication for it i have been sleeping on my back and the next morning i noticed liquid wax and some sort of clear substance ,I am as well hearing static noises and pounding noises in my ear.I was wondering is it okay to talk and eat since the ear drum is attached to both of those things and can i be around loud noises and am i able to use headphones thank you for your time
- DG1234

April 08, 2019

Good morning. We cannot diagnose specific cases over the Internet because we do not know the particulars of your condition. We recommend you make an appointment to discuss it with your doctor. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

February 21, 2019

How dangerous is surgery to fix a hole in the eardrum? Could it do more harm than good and should I just not have surgery?
- Ann

February 21, 2019

Good morning. We recommend discussing your specific concerns with your physician, as they will be able to give you the best advice for your particular medical case. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

January 19, 2019

Hello! My husband eardrum had ruptured when he was a child. He doesn’t have any other issues except for hearing loss. We are thinking about fixing his eardrum. Does the surgery still works for the eardrum ruptured so many years ago? He wants to get his hearing back on his injured ear. Is it possible?
- Babi khatri

January 21, 2019

Good morning. Unforunately, we cannot discuss specific patients cases over the Internet. We recommend you making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your needs. To make an appointment with a CEENTA doctor, call 704-295-3000.
Reply From: CEENTA

December 10, 2018

Hello I was able to visit a doctor regarding my right ear and she diagnosed me with otitis media (it was acute i think). But after I came home and drank my meds and prepared to get some sleep, I suddenly heard this whooshing sound coming from my right ear, and not long after I started to feel a discharge running down my ears. The discharge was clear and odorless. Does this mean my eardrums ruptured already? Or is otitis media with effusion? My doctor gave me pain killers so I'm not sure if the decrease in pain is because of that or because of the rupture. Also, I can say that I can still hear properly with my right ear, though there is some ringing sound. Thank you!
- Joseph

December 10, 2018

Hello. Unfortunately, we are unable to make diagnoses over the Internet. We recommend calling your doctor to let them know about your concerns and schedule a follow-up appointment.
Reply From: CEENTA

November 27, 2018

Could a ruptured eardrum cause swelling to the cheek area near the tragus? I have a lot of pain and swelling there
- Brooke

November 27, 2018

Good morning. Because we cannot make diagnoses over the Internet, we recommend that you make an appointment with your doctor. You can make one at CEENTA by calling 704-295-3000.
Reply From: CEENTA

August 25, 2018

I mistakelly cleaned my ear while my eardrum was healing . Is it possible to get an infection through earbud ? but ive protected my ear from water ..all i have is this irritating tinitus ringing in ear .. Natalia
- Natalia

August 27, 2018

Good morning. I'm sorry, but we cannot give medical advice over the Internet. We recommend you call 704-295-3000 to schedule an appointment with one of our ENT doctors. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

July 25, 2018

i am having the same symptoms as you Said.i meet a consultant but he said it was just an infection and he gave me some ear drops. But when i apply the eardrops it makes itches and pain and it suddenly comes down to my mouth and make my mouth bitter.what shall i do now?
- Albert

July 25, 2018

Good morning. We are sorry your condition isn't improving. We recommend you make another appointment with your doctor and let them know how you feel.
Reply From: CEENTA

March 30, 2018

I've been reading multiple pages about your infections and ruptured eardrums and it seems like the symptoms I'm experiencing are cause of a ruptured eardrum there's pus blood and constant ringing high amount of pain initially. Can't really afford going to a doctor at this time so is there an over the phone consultation that I could speak with a doctor to get a better idea on if going to a doctor is mandatory?
- Josh overstreet

March 30, 2018

Good morning. We do not have over-the-phone consultations. We recommend making an appointment with your doctor.
Reply From: CEENTA

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