A ruptured eardrum could result from inserting a cotton swab in the ear, state researchers in a new study.
It also showed that in most cases the rupture heals on its own and surgery is only necessary for the most severe cases.
"In the past, many otolaryngologists have wondered if surgery is really necessary to treat a ruptured eardrum. The results of this study show that 97 percent of cases healed on their own within two months, proving that most cases do not require surgery," said Ilaaf Darrat, an otolaryngologist at Henry Ford Hospital and co-author of the study.
More than half of patients seen in otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) clinics, regardless of their primary complaint, admit to using cotton swabs to clean their ears. But if the cotton swab is pushed too far in the ear canal, it can cause serious damage, including ruptured eardrum, also known as tympanic membrane perforations (TMP).
Severe TMP can cause facial paralysis and vertigo.
"If a patient is experiencing symptoms such as hearing loss, drainage, dizziness or abnormality in their facial movements they should see a doctor immediately to assess the possible ear damage," added Darrat.
The study will be presented at the Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meeting in Chicago.