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What is an Eardrum Repair?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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An eardrum repair or tympanoplasty is a surgical procedure to fix a damaged eardrum. Known as the tympanic membrane, the eardrum is an important part of the ear. Damage to this structure can result in hearing loss, recurrent ear infections, and other problems. This procedure can be recommended for the treatment of a number of different conditions. It is performed by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.

One reason to perform an eardrum repair is a perforation. The ear drum can be perforated as a result of chronic infections, trauma, congenital conditions, or the placement of drains used to treat infections. Doctors will usually recommend a wait and see approach for perforations, but if it becomes apparent that the eardrum cannot heal independently, eardrum repair must be considered as an option.

Congenital anomalies involving the eardrum can be repaired surgically and repairs can also be used to treat deposits of calcium on the eardrum. Another reason to perform this surgery is a condition known as a retraction pocket. In people with retraction pockets, pressure builds up inside the ear, pulling the ear drum out of position. This in turn leads to damage that causes hearing loss.

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Depending on the patient and the specifics of the procedure, an ENT may recommend local or general anesthesia for an eardrum repair. For involved procedures and young patients, general is preferred because the patient is completely immobile. For simple procedures and cooperative patients, a local anesthesia to manage pain at the surgical site may be enough. The surgeon uses a variety of tools to enter the ear for the purpose of performing the eardrum repair.

After an eardrum repair, the ear will be packed with wound dressing that will periodically need to be removed and checked. Patients need to keep water out of their ears, avoid blowing their noses hard, and refrain from physical exertion for several days after surgery. This gives the ear a chance to heal before the eardrum is subjected to stress. A surgeon can provide advice about when a patient can be active again, based on the rate of healing in the ear and the complexity of the eardrum repair.

If an eardrum repair is performed in a timely fashion, a patient may not experience permanent symptoms, such as hearing loss, as a consequence of the problem that necessitated the repair. In other cases, it may be possible to arrest hearing loss, but not to reverse it. Prompt identification and intervention when hearing problems develop is critical for preventing permanent damage.

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bear78
Post 3

@turkay1-- Actually, there are risks associated with eardrum repair aside from the anesthesia risks.

The most important risk is paralysis. Whether the surgery is done by entering the ear through the canal or by cutting behind the ear, there is a risk of facial nerves being cut. If that were to happen, a partial paralysis of the face might take place. The risk for paralysis is not extremely high, but it's there nonetheless.

There is also always a risk that the repair might fail. A second surgery might become necessary.

candyquilt
Post 2

@turquoise-- It's great that your ear healed by itself. But it's true that for many people, perforations can't heal itself and surgical repair of the eardrum becomes necessary. In fact, I think it's better to go ahead and have the eardrum repair rather than waiting for it to heal on its own for a long time.

The reason I say that is because I have an uncle who knew that he had a perforated eardrum but didn't have it repaired. After about ten years, he had lost fifty percent of his hearing in that ear. If he had gotten it repaired when he first knew about it, he could have prevented that.

And aside from the usual risks associated with having anesthesia, I don't think that an eardrum repair surgery is risky. Not having it done carries more risks in my opinion.

turquoise
Post 1

I almost had eardrum repair surgery once. I perforated my ear drum two years ago while diving. I did not realize that it had happened until several weeks later when I went in to see an ear nose and throat specialist for an ear infection.

He decided that I needed eardrum repair and scheduled me to have it a month later. I went in a month later but was sent back home soon after. The doctor checked my ear and was surprised to see that the perforation had healed itself!

I'm glad I didn't have to go through with the surgery. I'm also glad that the doctor had scheduled surgery a month later. I guess it's not good to rush an eardrum repair because the ear is pretty good at repairing itself. I think that if it can't repair itself after a considerable time, then surgery should be considered.

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