Before attempting any correction of the perforation, a hearing test should be performed. The benefits of closing a perforation include prevention of water entering the ear while showering, bathing, or swimming (which could cause ear infection), improved hearing, and diminished tinnitus. It also may prevent the development of cholesteatoma (skin cyst in the middle ear), which can cause chronic infection and destruction of ear structures.
If the perforation is very small, otolaryngologists may choose to observe the perforation over time to see if it will close spontaneously. Your surgeon at Michigan ENT & Allergy Specialists may also might try to patch a cooperative patient's eardrum in the office. Working with a microscope, your doctor may touch the edges of the eardrum with a microscopic instrument to stimulate growth and then place a thin patch on the eardrum. Usually with closure of the tympanic membrane improvement in hearing is noted. Several applications of a patch (up to three or four) may be required before the perforation closes completely. If your physician feels that a paper patch will not provide prompt or adequate closure of the hole in the eardrum, or attempts with patching do not promote healing, surgery is considered.
There are a variety of surgical techniques, but all basically place tissue across the perforation allowing healing. The name of this procedure is called tympanoplasty. Surgery is typically quite successful in closing the perforation permanently, and improving hearing. It is usually done on an outpatient basis.