Reviewed by Dr. Porter on March 26, 2022
Loud noise can rupture the thin membrane of the eardrum. The result can be ringing in the ears, hearing loss, or both.
These symptoms can persist for a few hours to a few weeks, and if left untreated, in rare instances, they can become permanent.
Perforation of the eardrum followed by ringing in the ears can follow exposure to explosions, gun shots, jet engines, rock concerts, and even some children’s toys.
What Can You Do to Make the Ringing Go Away?
Ringing in the ears is usually (although not always) a complication of hearing loss.
Your brain gets used to all kinds of input sounds from the world around you. Most of these sounds get filtered out, and you only pay attention to sounds that are important to you.
When something damages your ear drum, your brain doesn’t get the amount of sound it expects.
Your brain “fills in the gaps” in auditory information with ringing, clicking, buzzing, humming, whooshing, humming sounds, until your hearing recovers or you get an appropriate hearing aid.
This means that the most important thing that you can do to make the ringing in your ears after a traumatic event go away is to seek immediate hearing care.
The sooner you make an appointment to see an audiologist, the sooner you can begin to recover your hearing so the ringing in your ears will stop.
Of course, you also must take care of the underlying cause of the ringing in your ears, your ruptured eardrum.
How to Take Care of a Ruptured Eardrum
The first step in treating a ruptured eardrum is making an appointment with an audiologist to assess the severity of the damage.
A tiny hole in your eardrum will usually heal on its own in a few weeks. More severe damage may require medical intervention.
Your audiologist can confirm that your problem is really a ruptured eardrum and not some other correctable health problem.
Next steps involve making sure the rupture doesn’t get worse while your eardrum is repairing itself.
The list of things not to do includes the following:
- Don’t quit taking antibiotics before you have finished your last prescribed dose. Not all germs respond to antibiotics the same way. Some bacteria have natural resistance to antibiotics and will continue to grow and multiply longer than others. If you stop treatment when your medication has killed the less-resistant bacteria but hasn’t killed the more-resistant bacteria, then the resistant bacteria can grow back and cause the symptoms of infection all over again. They will be harder to treat and may not respond to any antibiotic.
- Don’t put anything, whether it is liquid or solid, into your ear. This means no ear drops, unless your doctor prescribes them. It also means no herbal remedies. It absolutely means no Q-tip swabs or toothpicks or bobby pins. If your ear canal gets itchy, don’t scratch at it. Don’t try to treat itchy ear canals by applying suction to them. (It is OK to pull on your ear lobes to distract from the itch. Just don’t injure them.)
- Anything you put into your ear canal can make the rupture worse.
- Don’t blow your nose hard. The sudden increase in air pressure can tear your eardrum all over again.
- Don’t get even clean water in your ear. This means no swimming and no showering. The problem with showers is that bacteria can build up inside showerheads when they are not in use. If you must wash your hair, apply Vaseline to cotton balls and place them lightly over your ear canal. Then let someone else who knows about your condition wash your hair in a sink.
- Don’t subject your ears to rapid changes in air pressure. Put off air travel and trips up high mountain roads until your audiologist confirms that your eardrum has healed.
If you can’t avoid exposure to loud noises, use earmuffs instead of earplugs.
If you absolutely must travel by air while your eardrum is healing, chew gum during takeoff and landing to equalize pressure inside your ear with cabin pressure.
Do you have questions? Make an appointment to come in and see us!
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