Perforated eardrum

A perforated (burst) eardrum is a hole or tear in your eardrum. It usually gets better on its own within 2 months, but you may need treatment such as antibiotics.

Check if you have a perforated eardrum

Symptoms of a perforated eardrum usually start suddenly after an:

Most of the time symptoms affect 1 ear and include:


If you're not sure if it's a perforated eardrum, find out about other conditions that can cause earache, hearing loss or tinnitus.

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you have sudden hearing loss in 1 or both ears
  • your hearing has been getting worse over the last few days or weeks
  • you have hearing loss along with other symptoms, such as earache or discharge coming out of the ear

It might not be anything serious, but it's best to get help as it may need to be treated quickly.

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Treatment for a perforated eardrum

A perforated eardrum usually gets better on its own within 2 months and your hearing returns to normal.

A GP may prescribe antibiotics if you have an ear infection, or to stop you getting an ear infection while your eardrum heals.

Sometimes, surgery to repair the eardrum (myringoplasty) may be needed if the eardrum is not healing by itself.


Go back to your GP if your symptoms have not started to improve after a few weeks.

Things you can do if you have a perforated eardrum

There are some things you can do to help heal a perforated eardrum and ease symptoms.


  • take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease any pain

  • put a large piece of cotton wool covered in petroleum jelly in your outer ear when you wash your hair to stop water getting in


  • do not go swimming or get your ear wet until your eardrum heals

  • do not put anything inside your ear, such as cotton buds or eardrops (unless a doctor recommends them)

  • try not to blow your nose too hard because this can damage your eardrum as it heals


Flying with a perforated eardrum

It's safe to fly if you have a perforated eardrum. But if you've had surgery to repair a perforated eardrum (myringoplasty), do not fly until you're told it's safe to.

Page last reviewed: 19 April 2023
Next review due: 19 April 2026