Tympanoplasty (reconstruction of the eardrum)
Diagnosis Your provider or an ENT specialist can often determine if you have a ruptured (perforated) eardrum with a visual inspection using a lighted instrument (otoscope or microscope). Your provider may conduct or order additional tests to determine the cause of your ear symptoms or to detect the presence of any hearing loss. These tests […]
Your provider or an ENT specialist can often determine if you have a ruptured (perforated) eardrum with a visual inspection using a lighted instrument (otoscope or microscope).
Your provider may conduct or order additional tests to determine the cause of your ear symptoms or to detect the presence of any hearing loss. These tests include:
- Laboratory tests. If there’s discharge from the ear, your provider may order a laboratory test or culture to detect a bacterial infection of the middle ear.
- Tuning fork evaluation. Tuning forks are two-pronged, metal instruments that produce sounds when struck. Simple tests with tuning forks can help your provider detect hearing loss.
A tuning fork evaluation may also reveal whether hearing loss is caused by damage to the vibrating parts of the middle ear (including the eardrum), damage to sensors or nerves of the inner ear, or damage to both.
- Tympanometry. A tympanometer uses a device inserted into the ear canal that measures the response of the eardrum to slight changes in air pressure. Certain patterns of response can indicate a perforated eardrum.
- Audiology exam. This is a series of tests that measure how well you hear sounds at different volumes and pitches. The tests are conducted in a soundproof booth.
Most ruptured (perforated) eardrums heal without treatment within a few weeks. Your provider may prescribe antibiotic drops if there’s evidence of infection. If the tear or hole in the eardrum doesn’t heal by itself, treatment will likely involve procedures to close the tear or hole. These may include:
- Eardrum patch. If the tear or hole in the eardrum doesn’t close on its own, an ENT specialist may seal it with a paper patch (or a patch made of other material).
With this office procedure, your ENT doctor may apply a chemical to the edges of the tear, which can promote ear drum healing, and then apply a patch over the hole. The procedure may need to be repeated more than once before the hole closes.
- Surgery. If a patch doesn’t result in proper healing or your ENT doctor determines that the tear isn’t likely to heal with a patch, he or she may recommend surgery.
The most common surgical procedure is called tympanoplasty. Your surgeon grafts a patch of your own tissue to close the hole in the eardrum. This procedure is done on an outpatient basis. In an outpatient procedure, you can usually go home the same day unless medical anesthesia conditions require a longer hospital stay.
What you can do in the meantime
If you think that you have a ruptured eardrum, be careful to keep your ears dry to prevent infection.
Don’t go swimming until your condition has been evaluated and discussed with your provider. To keep water out of the ear when showering or bathing, use a moldable, waterproof silicone earplug or put a cotton ball coated with petroleum jelly in the outer ear.
Don’t put medication drops in the ear unless your provider prescribes them specifically for infection related to the perforated eardrum.