Ruptured eardrum

Alternative Names

Tympanic membrane perforation; Eardrum – ruptured or perforated; Perforated eardrum

Definition of Ruptured eardrum

A ruptured or perforated eardrum is an opening in the tympanic membrane (eardrum).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The tympanic membrane (eardrum) separates the outer ear from the middle ear. The eardrum vibrates when sound waves strike it.

Signs and tests

The doctor will look in your ear with an instrument called an otoscope. If the eardrum is perforated, the doctor will see an opening in it, and may even see the bones of the middle ear.


The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and prevent or treat infection.

Expectations (prognosis)

A ruptured or perforated eardrum may be uncomfortable, but it usually heals by itself within 2 months. Any hearing loss is usually temporary.


Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 4/18/2010

Ear anatomy
Medical findings based on ear anatomy
Mastoiditis - side view of head
Eardrum repair - series

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.