Beating The Drum: How Ear Surgeons Can Repair Your Perforated Eardrum And Restore Your Hearing

Posted on: 8 May 2018

A perforated eardrum can be a debilitating and painful injury to say the least and can be caused by a wide variety of circumstances, from the concussive force of explosions to the swelling caused by a simple ear infection or even just digging too deep when cleaning your ears with a cotton bud or sharp object. Fortunately, most perforated eardrums heal by themselves in a few weeks, but particularly badly damaged eardrums may never heal fully on their own.

Fortunately, you are not doomed to a lifetime of one-eared hearing if you suffer from a perforated eardrum that refuses to close up of its own accord. ENT surgeons can repair even the most badly damaged eardrum using minimally-invasive techniques, restoring the hearing in your damaged ear and letting you take in the music of life once more.

How do you know if you have a perforated eardrum?

Diagnosing a perforated eardrum can be a simple matter if you have recently undergone a traumatic event that resulted in persistent loss of hearing in one ear, and many people whose eardrums are ruptured by a sudden event report hearing a distinctive popping sound before losing some or all of their hearing in the affected ear. However, perforated eardrums caused by ear infections, botched surgery or other, less obvious causes can be harder to diagnose.

As such, you should visit an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist at your earliest opportunity if you suspect your eardrum has been perforated. While the most obvious symptom of eardrum perforation is hearing loss and localised pain, other symptoms can also be caused by your damaged tympanic membrane, such as nausea and loss of equilibrium; these secondary symptoms can help clue you in on the true cause of your hearing loss and distinguish a perforated eardrum from the temporary loss of hearing caused by ear infection swelling.

To diagnose a perforated eardrum, your ENT specialist will inspect the inner ear using an otoscope, a simple device consisting of a powerful light and magnifying glass which is inserted into the ear. This gives the specialist a clear view of your eardrum. If the rupture in your eardrum is relatively small, a paper patch can be placed over the eardrum to speed healing. This is a simple procedure requiring no anaesthetic. However, if damage is more significant, you may be referred to an ENT surgeon.

How are perforated eardrums surgically repaired?

If your perforated eardrum requires surgical correction, you will undergo a procedure known as myringoplasty. During this procedure, your surgeon will make an incision in front of or behind your ear, removing a small piece of tissue which will be grafted over the rupture in your eardrum. The incision is very small and creates minimal scarring and will usually be unnoticeable beneath your hair or sideburns.

Once this piece of tissue has been harvested, it is placed over or under the rupture in your eardrum and held in place using a special antiseptic sponge. This sponge is made of organic, biodegradable materials and is absorbed by the body over the coming weeks as the eardrum heals. The ear canal is then packed with another sterile sponge to protect the eardrum from infection as it heals. This sponge is usually removed a week later by your ENT specialist.

Depending on the scale of the damage to your eardrum, this ear surgery may be performed under local or general anaesthesia, but even the most badly damaged eardrum can usually be successfully repaired within a few hours. After a short period of recuperation from the after-effects of anaesthesia, you should be able to go back to work the next day, and hearing in your damaged ear should be restored within a few weeks.