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Perforated Eardrum: Care Instructions

Parts of the ear showing eardrum inside ear, with detail of healthy eardrum and hole in ruptured eardrum.


A tear or hole in the membrane of the middle ear is called a perforated or ruptured eardrum. This can happen if an infection builds up inside the ear or if the eardrum gets injured. You may find it hard to hear out of that ear or may hear a buzzing sound. You may have an earache or have fluids that drain from the ear.

Your eardrum should heal on its own in a few weeks, and you should hear normally then. If you have an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Over-the-counter pain reliever may help your earache.

Your doctor will check to see if your eardrum has healed. If not, you may need surgery to repair the eardrum.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), as needed. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • To ease pain, put a warm face cloth or a heating pad set on low on your ear. You may have some drainage from the ear.
  • Be careful when taking over-the-counter cold or influenza (flu) medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Read the labels to make sure that you are not taking more than the recommended dose. Too much Tylenol can be harmful.
  • Keep your ears dry.
    • Take baths until your doctor says you can take showers again.
    • When you wash your hair, use cotton lightly coated with petroleum jelly as an earplug. Or ask your doctor about using earplugs.
    • Do not swim until your doctor says you can.
    • If you get water in your ears, turn your head to each side and pull the earlobe in different directions. This will help the water run out. If your ears are still wet, use a hair dryer set on the lowest heat. Hold the dryer 8 to 10 centimetres (3 to 4 inches) from your ear.
  • Do not put anything into your ear canal. For example, do not use a cotton swab to clean the inside of your ear. It can damage your ear. If you think you have something inside your ear, ask your doctor to check it.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Pus draining from the ear.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You have changes in hearing.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.