Tympanic Membrane Perforation

What is a tympanic membrane perforation?

A tympanic membrane perforation is a hole in the eardrum. It can be caused by:

  • Trauma
    • Things stuck in the ear (cotton swab, bobby pin, pencil, etc.)
    • Getting slapped on the ear
    • Being close to an explosion
  • Repeated ear infections (acute otitis media)
  • A severe ear infection. The pressure of the pus behind the eardrum causes it to rupture.

Patients with a hole in the eardrum can develop chronic ear infections (chronic otitis media). This is caused by drainage from the ear canal (otorrhea). It can slowly wear away the middle ear ossicles, leading to permanent hearing loss.

Evaluation and treatment of tympanic membrane perforation

To determine if your child has tympanic membrane perforation, the Children’s Hearing Center team will:

  • Evaluate your child’s hearing
  • Examine your child’s ear with a microscope
  • Request a computed tomography (CT) scan, if needed, to determine the extent of the disease. The CT scan can also provide images to guide surgery.

Tympanoplasty is the name of the surgery performed to repair your child’s eardrum hole. Surgery is performed in the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Ford Family Surgery Center. Learn more about the operating rooms and how to help prepare your child for surgery.

Tympanic membrane perforation surgery outcomes

The rate of successful eardrum hole repair is 90-95 percent. The surgery’s success rate is better if the ear is dry and uninfected. The success rate is lower if your child has had a previous tympanoplasty that did not work. Complete repair is not possible in children with poor Eustachian tube function.