Perforated eardrum

A perforated eardrum is a hole or tear in the eardrum. It is not usually painful but can be uncomfortable. A perforated eardrum usually heals within a few weeks or months provided the ear is kept dry and there’s no infection.

Symptoms of a perforated eardrum 

One of the main symptoms of a perforated eardrum is hearing loss. This can vary in severity, depending on the size of the hole. It usually goes back to normal once your eardrum has healed.

Some people also have symptoms of a middle ear infection, such as:

  • earache or discomfort (before perforation - pain is usually relieved once the ear drum perforates and relieves the build-up of pressure causing pain)
  • a discharge of mucus from your ear
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above

You may have some ringing or buzzing in your ear (tinnitus) as well.

Causes of a perforated eardrum 

The eardrum is also known as the tympanic membrane. It is a thin layer of tissue that separates the outer ear from the middle ear.

Causes of a hole in the eardrum include:

When to see your GP 

See your GP if you have persistent symptoms of a perforated eardrum. 

Although your eardrum will usually heal itself eventually, treatment may be necessary to prevent infections and help improve your hearing.

Your GP will use a special instrument called an auriscope or otoscope to examine your eardrum. These have a light and a lens that allow your GP to see any holes or tears in the eardrum.

Treating a perforated eardrum 

Perforated eardrums don't always need to be treated. This is because they normally heal by themselves in a few weeks or months provided your ear is kept dry and there’s no infection.

If you have any pain or discomfort, you can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Never give aspirin to children under 16.

Placing a warm flannel against the affected ear may also help relieve the pain. Care must be taken to make sure the flannel is not hot, to avoid scalding or burning of the skin.

Your GP may prescribe antibiotics if:

  • your perforated eardrum was caused by an infection
  • there is a risk that an infection will develop while your eardrum heals

You can reduce your risk of developing an infection by keeping your ear dry until it's healed. Don't go swimming, and cover your ears when having a shower.

You may need surgery to repair your eardrum if the hole is particularly large or doesn't heal. The procedure used to repair a perforated eardrum is known as a myringoplasty. 

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was reviewed January 2018

This page is due for review August 2020

Health conditions A to Z

Search by health condition or symptoms

Or find conditions beginning with …

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.