Ruptured eardrum or tubes in the ear

Fluid buildup in the middle ear during an ear infection (acute otitis media) may cause the eardrum to burst (rupture). This leaves a hole in the eardrum that generally heals within 2 weeks. Surgery to place tubes (myringotomy tubes) in the eardrums also creates a hole that will usually close when the tubes are removed or fall out.

A hole in the eardrum raises the chance of damage and infection to the middle ear. Take special precautions until a doctor tells you the hole is fully healed:

  • Do not put eardrops into the ear or clean the ear canal unless your doctor tells you to do so.
  • Keep water from getting in the ear when your child takes a bath or a shower or goes swimming. The ear could get infected if any germs in the water get into the ear. If your doctor says it’s okay, your child may use earplugs. Or your doctor may have other advice for you. He or she can tell you when the hole in the eardrum has healed and when it’s okay to go back to regular water activities.

Last Updated: February 2, 2009

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