Diagnosis

Your family doctor or ENT specialist can often determine if you have a perforated eardrum with a visual inspection using a lighted instrument (otoscope).

He or she may conduct or order additional tests to determine the cause of the rupture or degree of damage. These tests include:

  • Laboratory tests. If there's discharge from your ear, your doctor may order a laboratory test or culture to detect a bacterial infection of your middle ear.
  • Tuning fork evaluation. Tuning forks are two-pronged, metal instruments that produce sounds when struck. Simple tests with tuning forks can help your doctor detect hearing loss. A tuning fork evaluation may also reveal whether hearing loss is caused by damage to the vibrating parts of your middle ear (including your eardrum), damage to sensors or nerves of your inner ear, or damage to both.
  • Tympanometry. A tympanometer uses a device inserted into your ear canal that measures the response of your eardrum to slight changes in air pressure. Certain patterns of response can indicate a perforated eardrum.
  • Audiology exam. If other hearing tests are inconclusive, your doctor may order a series of strictly calibrated tests conducted in a soundproof booth that measure how well you hear sounds at different volumes and pitches (audiology exam).
Nov. 10, 2016
References
  1. Perforated eardrum. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/content/perforated-eardrum. Accessed Sept. 19, 2016.
  2. Evans AK, et al. Evaluation and management of middle ear trauma. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 19, 2016.
  3. Lalwani AK. Temporal bone trauma. In: Current Diagnosis & Treatment in Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Sept. 19, 2016.
  4. Vernick DM. Ear barotrauma. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 19, 2016.
  5. Traumatic perforation of the tympanic membrane. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/ear,-nose,-and-throat-disorders/middle-ear-and-tympanic-membrane-disorders/traumatic-perforation-of-the-tympanic-membrane. Accessed Sept. 20, 2016.