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Pain Management Health Center

Ruptured Eardrum: Symptoms and Treatments

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How Is a Ruptured Eardrum Treated?

Typically, no specific treatment is needed for a ruptured eardrum; the vast majority of ruptured eardrums heal within three months. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic -- either oral or in the form of eardrops -- to prevent an ear infection or treat an existing infection. If the ruptured eardrum is causing you pain, the doctor may recommend using an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Warmth may be applied also to relieve discomfort.

If the eardrum is slow to heal, the doctor may put a patch over the eardrum. In some cases, surgery may be needed to repair a ruptured eardrum. The surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis. During the procedure, which usually takes a couple of hours, the doctor will attach a piece of your own tissue to the eardrum to rebuild the eardrum. Surgery is most commonly used for large perforations, for perforations that involve the edges of the eardrum, or for ruptured eardrums caused by an ear infection.

While the eardrum heals, you'll need to keep the ear dry. That means no swimming or diving until the doctor says the eardrum is healed. You'll also need to use a shower cap or place cotton coated with petroleum jelly in your outer ear when you shower to keep water out. Other precautions include:

  • Not using medicine other than what's prescribed by your doctor in your ear
  • Taking all the medicine prescribed by the doctor
  • Protecting the ear from cold air
  • Avoiding blowing your nose while the ear heals

 

How Can a Ruptured Eardrum Be Prevented

The two most important steps you can take to prevent a ruptured eardrum are to avoid putting any object into your ear -- even to clean it -- and to treat ear infections promptly. It's also important to see a doctor to remove a foreign object in your ear rather than try to remove it yourself.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 17, 2014
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