How to care for your child with a Perforated (Ruptured) Eardrum

This leaflet will provide you with information on perforated (Ruptured) eardrum definition, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, home care tips and when to seek medical advice.

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What is a perforated eardrum?

A perforated eardrum is a hole in the membrane (the tissue of the eardrum) that separates your ear canal from your middle ear.

What are the causes of perforated eardrums?

  • Middle ear infection can result in the accumulation of fluids in your middle ear, which can cause the eardrum to tear up.
  • Barotrauma (a sudden uncomfortable feeling where your child feels their ears are blocked)  air pressure changes associated with air travel, scuba diving and the impact of  a car airbag can cause Barotrauma
  • Loud sounds or blasts can rarely cause a tear in your eardrum
  • Foreign objects in your ear can puncture the eardrum
  • Head injury

What are the symptoms of perforated eardrums?

  • Ear pain that worsens before suddenly getting better
  • Discharge from ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in your ear
  • Spinning sensation
  • Nausea or vomiting that can result from spinning sensation

How is perforated eardrum diagnosed?

The doctor will ask a few detailed questions about your child's health and examine your child's ear using a small handheld torch.

How is a perforated eardrum treated?

  • Perforated eardrums usually heal without treatment within a few weeks
  • You may get antibiotic drops if there is signs of infection
  • If the hole in your eardrum doesn't heal by itself, treatment may include procedures to close the hole by an ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) specialist
  • If follow up is needed, arrangement will be made, and you will be contacted for a follow up appointment in the ENT specialist clinic

Home care advice

  • Keep your child’s ear dry. Place a waterproof silicone earplug or cotton ball coated with petroleum jelly in your ear when showering or bathing.
  • Refrain from cleaning your ears, so it gets time to heal.
  • Avoid blowing the nose. The pressure created can damage your healing eardrum.
  • Hold a warm piece of cloth  against the ear to help reduce any pain
  • If your doctor advises giving medicine, you can give
    • Paracetamol (any brand) or Ibuprofen (any brand)   
    • Follow the instruction on the medicine package for the correct dose for your child
    • Do not give your child Aspirin as this can cause serious complications

When should I seek medical advice?

  • Mild to moderate pain
  • Bloody or pus-filled discharge leaking from the ear
  • Nausea, vomiting, or consistent dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Hearing loss

Go to the Emergency Department if your child:

  • Has severe pain in the ear
  • Has swelling behind the ear
  • Has difficulty in breathing
  • Is unable to drink any liquids
  • Appears dry and produces less urine
  • Has Something in the ear