Rupture of the eardrum

A ruptured eardrum is a tear or hole in the membrane of the middle ear, usually as a result of injury (trauma). The eardrum may also rupture from fluid buildup in the middle ear.

A person with fluid buildup in the ear may have severe pain that gets better or goes away when the eardrum ruptures and the pressure is relieved. A ruptured eardrum usually drains suddenly, leaking fluid that often looks like pus and smells bad or may even be bloody.

The eardrum usually heals on its own in 1 to 2 weeks, usually without hearing loss. But the injury or infection that caused the rupture usually requires treatment and a visit to a health professional.

Last Updated: February 12, 2010

Author: Jan Nissl, RN, BS

Medical Review: H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine & William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine

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