A tympanoplasty is a surgical procedure which seeks to repair a perforated eardrum (the tympanic membrane). There are a variety of ways to achieve this, and the best choice will depend on factors such as whether the patient has previously undergone a tympanoplasty procedure, the cause of the perforation, and the size and location of the hole on the eardrum.
As with much of the rest of the body, the eardrum is able to heal itself in some circumstances. However, again as with much of the rest of the body, this is not a perfect or infallible thing and sometimes medical assistance is needed. This is especially true if the tympanic membrane has been ruptured on multiple occasions or if the damage was caused by trauma, such as a Q-tip being pushed too far into the ear.
The Risks of Not Treating a Perforation
Almost any damage to the eardrum will cause some hearing loss, though this will usually be largely recovered upon healing. However, the presence of a hole in the eardrum poses other significant dangers. Primary among these is the risk of infection, because items such as debris and bacteria can easily get far into the ear. As the damage done by infection to the very sensitive structures of the middle ear can be very serious and highly uncomfortable, this is a serious concern.
How is it Done?
There are several ways to go about repairing a perforated membrane, and the appropriate variant depends on the circumstances of the patient and their injury. Generally what is used is a procedure called patch tympanoplasty. This involves taking a small piece of biological material from elsewhere in the body, often a small bit of muscle, and using it as a graft to ‘patch’ the perforation. Once sealed in place it should heal and serve as an adequate patch for the eardrum.
If the damage is more serious, there are other methods available that involve more serious surgical activity, but the general principles and outcomes are largely the same. After any ear procedure such as this it will be important to keep water out of the ear as well as any foreign bodies such as Q-Tips, ear buds, or earplugs.