A ruptured eardrum most commonly happens for one of three reasons: a head injury, an infection, or a penetrating injury. It can also happen during scuba diving and other activities that expose the eardrum (aka the tympanic membrane) to strong pressure. Fortunately, small ruptures of the eardrum often don’t even need to be treated, though a doctor’s visit is still in order. These little tears will heal on their own for most people. If the perforation is still there after two months (a doctor can check this with a device called an otoscope) then surgery may be needed to fix it.
Hearing loss. Hearing loss from a ruptured eardrum is usually short-term. That said, if the rupture was caused by a foreign body, hearing loss can be worse and more long-lasting. A foreign body is any object that enters the ear canal, such as a cotton swab or an ear-cleaning device for home use. There are tiny bones in the inner ear that can be damaged if an object is inserted too far. These bones are fragile and carefully arranged for hearing, and damaging them can cause long-term hearing loss. This problem usually needs surgical repair by a specialist. Because of the risk of hearing loss with a foreign-body injury, a hearing test is frequently done before and after treatment to monitor for changes.