The best treatment for a pierced eardrum begins with keeping the ear canal clean and dry. The eardrum is a thin membrane that protects the inner ear from debris contamination, such as earwax and bacteria. Antibiotics, pain relief, and the repair of the torn tissue will be the focus for most of the treatment processes.
Symptoms of a pierced eardrum start with a sudden, sharp pain emanating from the ear. There may be a ringing in the ear or other hearing difficulties, with voices and sounds muffled as if underwater. The burst eardrum also may cause a change in equilibrium resulting in dizziness and a loss of coordination upon movement. A thick fluid may leak out of the ear when the rupture occurs as well. If there is blood in the fluid, immediate evaluation by a physician is recommended.
A person with a pierced eardrum should avoid immersing his head in water. Even a little moisture provides a breeding ground for bacteria that may prolong the healing time. A rupture of the eardrum can cause a significant amount of pain. If left untreated, extensive scar tissue may form on the eardrum, causing hearing loss to occur.
In most cases, a pierced eardrum will heal on its own within a few weeks to two months. If the rupture has not repaired itself after a reasonable period of time, a physician may put a temporary patch over the tear on the eardrum. The patch may have to be replaced two to three times before the perforation heals. A surgical repair of the tympanic membrane may be necessary if the tear is large or is very slow to heal.
The majority of ruptured eardrums are caused by an infection of the middle ear. The growing bacteria cause pus and fluid to accumulate behind the fragile membrane. The extra pressure can cause the eardrum to tear or burst, resulting in severe pain. A physician usually prescribes oral antibiotics to combat the bacterial infection, and the pain accompanying the infection typically relents after a day or two of taking the antibiotics.
If the pierced eardrum is not caused by an infection, over-the-counter analgesics can be taken to relieve the pain. Great care should be taken to keep the ear canal dry. Before bathing, the ear canal should be closed off with a cotton ball or an earplug. Warm compresses held against the ear may alleviate some pain, or a blow dryer on a low setting can be blown toward the affected ear; the warm air may be soothing to the irritated and torn tissue.