What is the eardrum?
The eardrum is a thin tissue which is in between the middle and outer ear and when it gets perforated it means that it has a tear or a hole. Perforated eardrum usually leads to earache and impaired hearing. Among many other causes of a perforated eardrum the most common on is otitis media or an infection of the middle ear. In most cases a perforated eardrum heals on its own but certain severe cases still may require a surgery.
The ear consists of three main parts, the inner ear, the middle ear and the outer ear. The inner ear consists of cochlea and the auditory nerve. Cochlea is a coiled tube with two chambers filled with fluid while the auditory nerve serves a sound transmitter to the brain. The middle air is filled with air and it is a cavity which is also connected to the throat and the nose by the Eustachian tube. It contains a structure of small bones which are medically referred to as ossicles. The outer ear consists of the visible protuberant part the ear canal and the eardrum.
Soundwaves get to the eardrum through the ear canal and they make the membrane vibrate. The vibrations are passed further on by the ossicles located in the middle ear. The ossicles’ main function is to amplify the received vibrations and pass them further towards the inner ear. The cochlea in the inner ear contains hair cells which respond very delicately to the vibrations that have been received from the middle ear. The auditory nerve then transmits the electrical signal generated from the movement of the hair cells to the brain.
Symptoms of a perforated eardrum
Persons who have a perforated eardrum usually suffer from impaired hearing. The extent and the severity of the hearing loss largely depend on the size of the hole in the eardrum. The bigger the hole the greater the hearing loss it will cause. Perforated eardrum can also be the cause of earache and discomfort. It is not uncommon for a person whose eardrum is perforated to experience mucus discharge from the ear as well as ringing in the ears.
A perforated eardrum also poses a risk of infection. Eardrum protects the middle ear from bacteria and germs that may cause infections, so when it gets perforated, certain types of infection may occur. Symptoms of the middle ear infection includes severea earache fever and a slight hearing loss. If it occurs in children additional symptoms may includes lethargy and vomiting. The doctor diagnoses a perforated eardrum by examining it with an auriscope.