Retracted Eardrum

A retracted eardrum is a condition whereby the eardrum is sucked or pulled into the area behind it. This may arise due to low pressure in middle ear area. The eardrum is a thin flexible membrane that separates middle ear from outer ear. It is called the tympanic membrane. Infections may also cause a retracted eardrum. When a doctor tells you that you have a retracted eardrum, they mean that the tympanic membrane is concave or sucked backwards.


What is an eardrum?

The eardrum forms a thin tissue, which extends from auditory tube and separates the external ear and the inner ear. Much of the eardrum stretches tightly over auditory tube but other parts are flaccid. Among the functions of eardrum are such as transmission and amplification of the sound. It also protects the delicate ear structures.

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An auditory tube ensures that the pressure in middle ear equals pressure in outside or in the external ear. It remains closely most of the time except when one swallows something or yawns. Auditory tube also helps clear debris and mucus from ear and drains them back to throat.


Anything, which affects the function of auditory tube, could affect the pressure in middle ear. A negative pressure in middle ear is the most common cause of the retracted ear. It is called vacuum effect and may make the entire eardrum or just some parts to become retracted. A few parts of eardrum retracted may be referred to as the retraction pockets.


What are the symptoms of a retracted eardrum?

An individual who has a retracted eardrum will experience problems such as hearing loss. However, this often clears if adequate treatment is offered. There may be other symptoms but they will depend on what causes the retraction. One common symptom is having an elevated hearing sensitivity.

retracted eardrum


A person with a retracted eardrum may hear sounds louder than they are. One experiences a feeling that resembles the one experienced in travel-related pressure changes. A person may also have ear pain. When not treated, retracted eardrum could result to retraction pockets in middle ear. There is increased risk of having an infection when debris collects in pockets and this could cause chronic infection such as cholesteatoma.

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Causes of retracted eardrum

Retracted eardrum may be caused by conditions linked to the auditory tube dysfunction such as middle ear infections, rupturing of eardrum, fluid in ears. When there is an infection in middle ear, it may cause problems with the eardrum thereby leading to retraction. The presence of fluid in ears or otitis media with effusion or discharge may result to retraction of eardrum.


When there is fluid deposited in the ear, it may clog the Eustachian tube opening, thereby preventing the entry of air from outside into middle ear. This may eventually cause the pressure to increase thus leading to a retracted eardrum. An upper respiratory infection that causes a dysfunction of the auditory tube may also cause retraction.


Other conditions such as sinusitis, chronic allergies, and tonsils, or enlarged adenoids may as well cause retracted eardrum. People who have a history of having ruptures of eardrum may eventually develop retracted eardrum. Having a retracted eardrum indicates there is a problem with the auditory tube and it should be identified and treated.


When left untreated, the effects of negative pressure being experienced in middle ear may result to other complications such as cholesteatoma, hearing loss, and erosion of ear canal.


Treatment of retracted eardrum

Much of treatment is aimed at reducing or removing the negative pressures and addressing the cause of the increased pressure. The treatment may be as simple as use of nasal decongestants to relieve congestion, steroids to relieve pain, or a dosage of antibiotics to treat an infection in the middle ear.


When the cause is from fluid in ears, this is likely to resolve on its own. You may want to see a doctor if the symptoms appear to be bothersome and too severe. A fluid in ear that does not go away on its own may need one to see a doctor. At times, surgical placement of the ventilation tubes may be needed.


In most cases, the retracted eardrum is not a serious condition and the Eustachian tubes may clear by themselves, and therefore treatment may not be required. However, if an infection is associated with this condition, then treatment may be needed to cure the infection and prevent further complications.


An inflammation or ear pain may need treatment to help a patient deal with the pain. A doctor may suggest using Valsalva maneuver to help equalize pressure on side of ear. This is achieved by holding your breath and tightening the body the way you do when you strain to have a bowel movement. This may help to reduce the pressure.


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