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Home > Medical Services > Ear, Nose & Throat > Ear Care > Ear Disorders > Perforation (Hole in the Eardrum)
The eardrum is a small, oval membrane separating the middle ear and outer ear. It plays an essential role in the transmission of sound energy from the outer ear to the middle and inner portions of the ear. The eardrum serves as a barrier, helping prevent infections from spreading from the outer ear to the middle ear.
A perforation is a tear or opening in the delicate tympanic membrane, sometimes called a "ruptured" eardrum. There can be one or more holes in the eardrum in various locations. There are several causes of eardrum perforation, but often they are the result of longstanding middle ear fluid buildup and infection. Different kinds of ear trauma can cause a hole in the eardrum and may lead to possible hearing loss.
Common symptoms include discharge from the ear, earache or a change in hearing. Sometimes bleeding is also present. A physician can diagnose perforated eardrums with a thorough ear examination. This examination should always include a hearing test (audiogram).
Some individuals with eardrum perforation may require a course of antibiotics. Some perforations heal on their own, however; sometimes an outpatient surgical procedure called a tympanoplasty is required to correct a perforation that does not heal spontaneously.