Surgery for a perforated eardrum 

You may need surgery if your perforated eardrum is severe or doesn't heal. The procedure used to repair a perforated eardrum is known as a myringoplasty.

This can help reduce your risk of getting ear infections and may help improve your hearing.

If your GP refers you to a consultant for specialist treatment such as surgery, you have the right to start treatment within 18 weeks of your referral. Read more about NHS waiting times for treatment.

The procedure

Before a myringoplasty, you'll be admitted to the specialist ear, nose and throat (ENT) department of your local hospital.

The procedure is normally carried out under general anaesthetic. The surgeon uses a microscope and very small surgical equipment to seal the hole in your eardrum with a small piece of tissue (graft), which is usually taken from just in front or behind your ear.

Sometimes, a cut is made behind your ear so the surgeon can access your eardrum more easily.

After the procedure, a dressing will be placed inside your ear canal and cotton wool padding will be put over your ear and held in place with a bandage. You may also have some stitches.

Recovery

Most people can go home from hospital on the same day or the day after the procedure, but you may need to stay off work or school for up to two weeks.

You'll be advised about changing the cotton wool padding over your ear and about any activities you need to avoid while you recover. Generally, you should try to avoid blowing your nose too hard and make sure you keep the ear dry.

Don't go swimming and plug your ear with cotton wool covered with Vaseline when you have a shower or bath. Don't fly until advised it's safe to do so. You should usually wait at least three months from the time of surgery. For more information, see is it safe to fly with a perforated eardrum?

You may experience some short-lived dizziness after the procedure and the dressing in your ear will make it difficult to hear properly. You shouldn't have too much pain, but you can take painkillers if necessary. 

If your stitches aren't ones that dissolve on their own, you'll have an appointment about a week later to remove these.

A few weeks after your operation, you will have an appointment at the outpatient clinic to have your dressings removed and your ear checked.

Possible complications

Most complications associated with surgery for a perforated eardrum are uncommon, but may include:

  • an infection, which can cause an increase in pain, bleeding and discharge – contact your GP if you think you may have an infection
  • dizziness that lasts for a few weeks
  • ringing or buzzing in your ear (tinnitus), which may be permanent
  • facial paralysis caused by damage to the nerve that controls the facial muscles – this may get better over time, but some people are left with permanent problems
  • changes in taste – these are usually temporary, but occasionally can be permanent
  • permanent hearing loss, although this is rare

Before you have surgery to repair a perforated eardrum, discuss the potential benefits and risks with your surgeon.


Page last reviewed: 02/03/2015

Next review due: 02/03/2017