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Ruptured Eardrum

The tympanic membrane is also known as the ear drum. It is made of tissue very similar to skin. Tympanic membrane perforation is a hole in the eardrum. This is usually caused by trauma, sometimes from use of a cotton swab or a hard blow to the ear, chronic ear infections, or prior ear surgery such as ear tubes (page also known as tympanostomy tubes). Most of the time, the hole will heal on its own.

Your child should be evaluated by our experts—a team of pediatric otolaryngologists (ENTs) at the Johns Hopkins Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology—so they can determine if the hole will heal on its own or if it needs surgical treatment.


Your child may exhibit the following symptoms if they have tympanic membrane perforation:

  • Ear drainage
  • Hearing loss
  • Whistling through the ear while nose blowing or sneezing
  • Found on a routine ear examination, even without any symptoms


Your pediatric ENT will look inside the ear with an otoscope or a special microscope. The ear drum structure will be examined at that time.


Your doctor may recommend tympanoplasty or myringoplasty; microsurgery that usually uses a patient's own tissues to reconstruct the tympanic membrane. The success rate of this surgery is high, and the risks are small.

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