Monday, February 21, 2011

A Break from Gadgets

A reader had a question with regard to the post about tympanometers. The question and the answer are as follows:

Question: You mentioned that a problematic chart could indicate a hole in the eardrum? What causes this? Is it genetic and is there an operation that could fix this?

Answer: Although it may be possible that a hole in the eardrum be genetic, I have never heard of such a case, and it would be rare. The most common cause of eardrum perforation is trauma or infection. Examples of trauma would include: a direct strike/blow to the ear, skull fracture, explosion, foreign objects (this includes Q-Tips) being pushed too far into the ear, or burns--either from heat or chemicals. If they are severe enough, infections could also cause holes in the eardrum.

In most cases, the eardrum will heal on its own within a few weeks, or a few months. If, for some reason, the eardrum does not heal on its own, a physician may decide to try and patch it up. This technique involves covering the eardrum in a chemical that facilitates growth/healing and covering it with a piece of paper patch. This can be done in the physician's office and may need to be done several times before the hole properly heals. If the hole is too big to be patched, or if the patch does not work, surgery can be performed to fix it. This outpatient surgery, called tympanoplasty, involves using a small piece of skin to cover the hole and is quite successful.

For more details or further clarification, you can visit the website where I found this information:


  1. Thanks for the info! That was very helpful. It still leaves me wondering, however, how one would clean out problematic ear wax WITHOUT Q-tips? After all, a damp towel just doesn't seem to do the trick.

  2. If it's a really big problem, your family doctor can do it for you. But for normal hygienic purposes at home, I know there are some kind of drops you can buy that kind of help break up the wax and then you flush it out. To be honest, I myself use Q-Tips. But just be careful not to push to hard on the eardrum and be aware that you could be compacting the wax in further, rather than getting much out. It's a personal preference...