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Last Updated on Saturday, May 11, 2024 by Amelia Griffith

As you lie in bed trying to get comfortable for sleep, the pain from your recently ruptured eardrum makes finding the right sleeping position difficult. You want to avoid irritating the sensitive tissues in your ear but also need to maintain your usual sleeping routine as much as possible to allow for rest and recovery. The ideal sleeping position following an eardrum rupture is one that causes the least discomfort while also minimizing fluid buildup and risk of infection as the eardrum heals.

By understanding how different sleeping positions can impact your recovery, you can make an informed choice for the position that will provide you with the best chance of a restful night’s sleep during this time.

What Is a Ruptured Eardrum?

A ruptured eardrum, known medically as a tympanic membrane perforation, is a tear or hole in the thin tissue that separates the ear canal from the middle ear. The eardrum helps transmit sound from the ear canal to the middle ear, so a perforation can lead to hearing loss and infection.

Causes of a Ruptured Eardrum

A ruptured eardrum is often caused by trauma to the eardrum, such as from an object puncturing the eardrum, a direct blast of air into the ear, or a sudden change in ear pressure. Ear infections, especially chronic or severe infections, can also lead to a perforated eardrum. In some cases, the cause is unknown or due to a weakening of the eardrum.

Signs and Symptoms

The most familiar symptoms of a ruptured eardrum involve:

  • Hearing loss or ringing in the affected ear. The hearing loss may be partial or total depending on the size and location of the perforation.
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear. The fluid can be clear, bloody, or pus-filled depending on the underlying cause.
  • Pain in or around the ear. The pain may be sharp, pulsating, or paining.
  • Nausea or dizziness. This can occur due to changes in ear pressure or balance.

When to See a Doctor

You should see your doctor if you experience symptoms of a ruptured eardrum, especially hearing loss, ear pain, or drainage of fluid from the ear. They can examine your ears, confirm the diagnosis, determine the underlying cause, and recommend appropriate treatment to allow healing and prevent complications like permanent hearing loss or infection. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to repair the eardrum.

Common Causes and Symptoms of Perforated Eardrums

A ruptured eardrum, known medically as a tympanic membrane perforation, can have several causes and lead to problematic symptoms.

Common Causes

The tympanic membrane, or eardrum, can rupture due to several factors:

  • Sudden changes in pressure, such as from an explosion, loud noise exposure, or forceful sneezing. The pressure builds up behind the eardrum, causing it to burst.
  • Ear infections occur when fluid builds up behind the eardrum, putting strain on it. Infections like otitis media can ultimately lead to a ruptured eardrum.
  • Trauma to the ear or head that causes damage to the eardrum. This could include injuries from objects entering the ear or a direct blow to the ear.
  • Earwax impaction puts pressure on the eardrum. Attempts to remove the earwax can also sometimes lead to eardrum perforation.

Common Symptoms

Some symptoms associated with a ruptured eardrum include:

  • Hearing loss or changes, like muffled or distorted hearing.
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear, which may be clear, bloody, or pus-filled depending on the cause.
  • Ringing in the ear or a feeling of fullness.
  • Dizziness or loss of balance.
  • Pain in or around the ear that may worsen when lying down.

If you experience any symptoms of a ruptured eardrum, you should consult your physician. They can examine your ears, determine the cause of the perforation, and recommend treatment to promote healing and prevent infection.

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Dangers of Sleeping on the Ruptured Side

Sleeping on the side of your ruptured eardrum can be dangerous and lead to potential complications. It’s smart to avoid resting on the affected hand.

Infection Risk

When an eardrum ruptures, it creates an opening in the middle ear. Sleeping on the ruptured side can allow bacteria, fluids, and earwax to enter the middle ear, leading to infection. Middle ear infections, known as otitis media, often cause pain, discharge of pus, hearing loss, and nausea. To prevent infection and allow the eardrum to heal, doctors recommend sleeping on the unruptured side of your back.

Delayed Healing

The eardrum requires time to heal after rupturing. Sleeping on the affected side can put pressure on the eardrum, causing additional damage and delaying the healing process. Eardrum perforations typically heal on their own within a few weeks. To speed up recovery, keep the ear elevated and avoid any activity that could further damage the eardrum.

Compromised Hearing

In some cases, a perforated eardrum can lead to hearing loss, especially if infection develops. Sleeping on the ruptured side may push earwax and other debris into the middle ear, muffling sounds and reducing hearing sensitivity. Hearing loss from a ruptured eardrum is often temporary, but avoiding sleeping on the affected side can prevent unnecessary hearing damage during the healing process.

In summary, sleeping on the side of a perforated eardrum puts you at risk for infection, delayed healing, reduced hearing, and other complications. For the fastest recovery, sleep on your back or the opposite side from the rupture. Follow up with your doctor if you notice increased pain, discharge, hearing loss, or other signs of infection. With proper rest and care, most eardrum perforations heal within a month, restoring hearing and preventing long-term damage.

Benefits of Sleeping on the Good Side

When dealing with a ruptured eardrum, sleeping on the side that is unaffected can help promote healing and alleviate discomfort. The primary benefits of sleeping on your unaffected side include:

  • Reduced pressure and irritation: Lying on your good side avoids putting direct pressure on the ruptured eardrum. This helps decrease irritation, inflammation, and pain in the affected ear.
  • Improved drainage: Sleeping on your unaffected side allows for better drainage of any fluid or mucus in the ear with the perforated eardrum. The burst eardrum loses its ability to protect the middle ear, so proper drainage is important for avoiding infection and promoting healing.
  • Less risk of further damage: Sleeping on the side with the ruptured eardrum could lead to further tearing or damage of the eardrum. Lying on your good side avoids movement or manipulation of the affected ear that may worsen the perforation or delay healing.

It is best to continue sleeping on your unaffected side until you have seen your doctor and received treatment for the ruptured eardrum. Treatment options include observation, ear drops, or ear tubes to help close up or patch the hole in the eardrum. Your doctor can advise you on when it is safe to resume normal sleeping positions. In some cases, the eardrum may heal on its own within a couple of months. However, see your doctor right away if you notice bleeding, drainage of fluid, hearing loss, or dizziness.

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Following your doctor’s recommendations for sleeping position, medication, and follow-up care is key to ensuring proper healing of a ruptured eardrum and avoiding potential complications. While a perforated eardrum often heals within a couple of months, persistent or severe symptoms require prompt medical evaluation. Sleeping on your unaffected side and keeping the affected ear elevated can aid the healing process, but should not replace recommended medical treatment.

Tips for Getting Comfortable Sleeping on One Side

To reduce discomfort and promote healing when sleeping with a ruptured eardrum, there are several recommendations to keep in mind:

Position Your Head Appropriately

When lying on your side, slightly elevate your head with an extra pillow. This helps reduce fluid buildup in the ear. Additionally, try sleeping on your unaffected side as much as possible. This takes the pressure off the ruptured eardrum and allows it to heal.

Avoid Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your back or with your ruptured ear facing downwards is not advisable. These positions can place undue stress on the eardrum and delay healing.

Use a Warm Compress

Applying a warm compress to the affected ear before bedtime can help relieve pressure and reduce inflammation. The heat increases blood flow to the area, easing discomfort. Be very careful not to get any moisture in the actual ear canal.

Take an Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever

Mild pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, or aspirin can help manage any pain from the ruptured eardrum and allow you to rest comfortably. Follow the dosage instructions on the packaging and talk to your doctor about any prescription medication you are taking to avoid interactions.

Limit Noise and Stimulation

Reducing auditory stimulation on the affected side will make resting easier. Use earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, or a white noise machine to block outside sounds. Keep electronics like TVs, phones, and other devices out of the bedroom. The less noise and distraction, the faster you will heal.

See your Doctor if Symptoms Worsen

While most ruptured eardrums will heal on their own within a few weeks, see your doctor right away if the pain intensifies, drainage increases or persists, hearing loss becomes more severe or does not start to improve, or if you experience dizziness or nausea. These can indicate a more serious problem requiring medical intervention.

With rest, time, and proper care, sleeping on your side with a ruptured eardrum will become more comfortable as the eardrum begins to heal. Be patient through the recovery process and contact your doctor with any concerns.

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Using Pillows and Positioners to Stay on Your Side

When sleeping with a ruptured eardrum, the recommended position is on your side. Lying on your side helps reduce pressure and fluid buildup in the ear, which can lead to irritation and delay the healing process.


Using Pillows for Support

Place a pillow under your head for support and comfort. Use an extra pillow to prop up the side with the ruptured eardrum slightly higher than the other side. This helps drain fluid away from the eardrum. Be very gentle when positioning the pillows to avoid aggravating your ear.

Choosing the Proper Side

The side you choose to lie on depends on which eardrum is ruptured. If the rupture is in your left eardrum, lie on your left side. If the rupture is in your right eardrum, lie on your right side. Lying with the perforated eardrum facing downwards allows gravity to help drain fluid away from the eardrum.

Avoiding Pressure

Make sure not to apply any pressure to the affected ear. Do not rest the side of your head directly on the mattress. Place a pillow under the ear to keep pressure off. Avoid sleeping on the unaffected ear as this can put indirect pressure on the ruptured eardrum.

Using a Positioner (If Needed)

For some people, remaining in one position all night can be difficult. A body positioner, such as a wedge pillow, knee pillow, or bolster, may be useful to help keep you on your side. Place the positioner along your back to prevent you from rolling onto your back or unaffected ear during sleep. Make sure any positioners are padded and do not apply direct pressure to the head or ears.

By following these recommendations for proper head and ear positioning during sleep with a ruptured eardrum, you can gain relief from symptoms, allow the eardrum adequate time to heal, and avoid complications. Always follow any specific guidance provided by your doctor for the care and management of your condition.

When to Seek Medical Attention for a Busted Eardrum

If your ruptured eardrum is causing severe pain, drainage of fluid from the ear, hearing loss, or dizziness, you should contact your doctor right away for an exam. Seeking prompt medical care is especially important for young children, as a perforated eardrum can lead to permanent hearing damage if left untreated. Your doctor may need to prescribe oral steroids or antibiotics to reduce inflammation and prevent infection. In some cases, surgery may be needed to repair a busted eardrum.

Best Sleeping Position for Healing a Ruptured Eardrum

The position you sleep in can affect your comfort level and healing. Sleeping on your side with the ruptured eardrum facing up may allow for better drainage and relieve pressure buildup. Lying on your side also reduces stress on the eardrum versus lying flat on your back. However, sleeping on the side opposite the perforated eardrum can be uncomfortable due to the change in pressure. You can also check the Miracle Sheets review for comfortable and sound Sleep.

Many people find relief in sleeping with the head slightly elevated using an extra pillow. This position can facilitate drainage from the ear and reduce throbbing pain. Avoid sleeping on the ear with the ruptured eardrum, as direct pressure may increase discomfort and delay healing.

Elevation and Ice

Applying an ice pack to the affected ear in 15-minute intervals can help reduce inflammation, ease pain, and promote healing. Be really gentle when putting on and taking off the ice pack. Raise the head of your bed by a few inches using extra pillows. An elevated position will make it easier for fluid to drain from the ear. Antihistamines or decongestants may also help decrease inflammation and provide relief from ear pressure or fullness.

If pain from a ruptured eardrum persists for more than a few days or you experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or vertigo, consult your doctor as soon as possible. They can determine if any treatment or corrective procedures are needed to prevent complications and promote healing of your perforated eardrum.

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Healing Timelines for Ruptured Eardrums

The typical healing time for a busted eardrum can range from a few weeks to several months. The severity of the rupture and any underlying conditions are factors in the recovery period. In many cases, ruptured eardrums heal on their own within 6 to 8 weeks. However, some may take 3 months or longer to fully heal.

Healing Stages

In the initial stage after a rupture, you may experience drainage of fluid from the ear, hearing loss, and ear pain. The eardrum begins to heal within a week, as a clot forms to seal the perforation.

Over the following 4 to 6 weeks, scar tissue develops to close the eardrum perforation. Hearing starts to improve, though some muffled hearing and ear fullness may remain. It’s best to avoid submerging the ear in water or irritating the eardrum during this critical healing period.

For the next 2 months, the scar tissue matures and strengthens. Hearing continues to recover as the scar firms and the middle ear inflammation reduces. At around 3 months, the scar should be fully healed and hearing close to normal levels again. However, the scarred eardrum may remain slightly thicker and less flexible.


Some ruptures, especially large or severe ones, may require surgical repair to ensure proper healing and hearing recovery. In rare cases where hearing does not start to recover within a month or drainage persists for more than a week, you should consult your doctor regarding potential treatment options, including ear tube placement or eardrum patching procedures.

While a ruptured eardrum will heal on its own in many instances, closely monitoring your symptoms and following up with your doctor if recovery seems delayed or complicated can help minimize hearing loss and prevent long-term ear problems. With proper rest and care, most people experience full recovery of hearing and eardrum function within 3 months of rupture.

FAQ About Sleeping Positions and Ruptured Eardrums

What Side Should I Sleep on with a Ruptured Eardrum

When recovering from a busted eardrum, it is recommended to sleep on the affected side. Lying on the side of the ruptured eardrum helps to promote drainage and healing.

Sleeping on Your Side

Sleeping on the side with the ruptured eardrum allows for gravity to help drain any fluid buildup in the ear. This can help to prevent infection and speed up healing. Lying on your side also reduces pressure changes within the ear that could cause discomfort.

To sleep on your side, place a pillow under your head and between your arms for support. You may need to place a towel over the pillow to absorb any drainage from the ear. Use as many pillows as needed to keep your head slightly elevated while on your side. This position should be maintained as much as possible, including while resting or napping, to gain the most benefit.

Avoid Sleeping on The Opposite Side

Sleeping on the side opposite of the ruptured eardrum is not recommended. Lying on the opposite side can increase pressure within the affected ear and slow down healing. It may also cause discomfort, dizziness, or hearing changes. While occasional changes in position during sleep are normal and unavoidable, try to spend the majority of time sleeping on the side with the ruptured eardrum.

If sleeping on your side is not possible due to other injuries or conditions, sleeping slightly propped up on your back is the next best option. The slight incline will still allow for some drainage and help relieve pressure within the ear. Avoid sleeping completely flat on your back, as this provides no assistance with drainage or pressure relief. With rest and proper positioning, most ruptured eardrums will heal within 7 to 14 days. Follow up with your doctor if you notice worsening symptoms or if healing is taking longer than 2 weeks.

How can I speed up the recovery from a busted eardrum?

To speed up the healing of a ruptured eardrum, there are several recommended steps you can take:

Keep the ear dry

It is important to keep the affected ear dry to avoid infection while the eardrum is healing. Avoid swimming or any water activities that could expose the ear to moisture. When bathing or showering, place a cotton ball coated with petroleum jelly in the ear canal to prevent water from entering. Change the cotton ball after each bath or shower.

Get extra rest

Getting adequate rest helps your body heal. A ruptured eardrum often causes dizziness or balance problems, so extra rest will aid the healing process and help you avoid falls or injuries. Rest also boosts your immune system to prevent infection as the eardrum mends.

Use over-the-counter pain relievers

Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin can help relieve any pain from the ruptured eardrum and reduce inflammation. Follow the dosage instructions on the packaging and do not take for more than a few days unless directed by your doctor.

See your doctor for prescription eardrops

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic ear drops to prevent infection while the eardrum heals. Steroid ear drops can also help reduce inflammation and speed up healing. Use the ear drops as directed for the full course of treatment. See your doctor if your symptoms get worse or do not start to improve within a week of rupturing the eardrum.

Follow up with your doctor

Most ruptured eardrums heal on their own within a month. However, you should schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor, especially if symptoms do not begin to improve or get worse. Your doctor can check on the healing and see if any treatment changes need to be made to aid recovery. They can also refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist if needed.

What not to do with a ruptured ear?

With a ruptured eardrum, there are several things you should avoid in order to prevent complications or further damage.

Don’t allow water to enter the ear

When showering or bathing, place a cotton ball coated in petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment in the affected ear to keep water out. Avoid swimming or distinct exercises that could expose the ear to water Water exposure risks infection and can slow the healing process.

Don’t insert any alien objects into the ear

Do not use cotton swabs, ear plugs, or other objects that could cause additional injury or become lodged in the ear. The eardrum needs to heal, and any object inserted into the ear canal poses risks.

Don’t blow your nose forcefully

Blowing your nose requires pressure buildup that can actually pass through the Eustachian tubes into the middle ear, potentially causing additional damage or pain. Gently blow your nose or consider using a saline nasal spray to keep nasal passages clear.

Don’t travel by air

Changes in air pressure that occur during air travel or diving can cause pain, dizziness, or further damage to the eardrum. Avoid flying or any rapid altitude changes until your eardrum has had time to heal, as directed by your doctor.

Don’t smoke or vape.

Smoking and vaping slow down wound healing and tissue regeneration. Avoid any tobacco or nicotine products to allow your eardrum to heal as quickly as possible.

By avoiding these harmful actions, you can support prompt healing of your ruptured eardrum and avoid complications. Be sure to follow up with your doctor for any signs of infection or if your symptoms do not start to improve within a few days. With proper rest and care, most eardrum perforations will heal on their own within 2 to 3 months.

How long will a ruptured eardrum leak?

A perforated eardrum typically leaks fluid for 7 to 14 days as it begins the healing process. The eardrum, also known as the tympanic membrane, is a slim membrane that separates the external ear from the central ear. When ruptured, the eardrum develops a small hole or tear that allows fluid from the middle ear to seep out. This fluid, known as serous otitis media, is usually clear but may be bloody for the first few days.


As the eardrum starts to heal, the leak should decrease over the course of a couple of weeks. Several factors influence how long an eardrum will leak:

  • The size and location of the perforation. A larger tear or one in a thinner area of the eardrum may leak longer.
  • Underlying infection. An ear infection present at the time of rupture may increase inflammation and fluid buildup, prolonging the leak. Antibiotic treatment can help reduce leakage in this case.
  • Eardrum thickness. A thinner, more delicate eardrum is more prone to leaking for a longer duration. Age and repeated ear infections or perforations can thin the eardrum over time.
  • General health. Conditions like allergies, sinusitis, or a weakened immune system can contribute to longer leakage by causing excess fluid production or slower healing.
  • Avoiding irritants. Exposing the ruptured eardrum to water, loud noises, or physical impact can delay healing and continue the leak. Keeping the ear dry and avoiding aggravating factors will help speed up recovery.

If leaking persists for more than 2 weeks, see your doctor. They may need to patch the eardrum or, in rare cases, surgically repair it to prevent infection, hearing loss, or other complications. While waiting for the eardrum to heal, sleeping on your side with the affected ear facing up can help fluid drain and promote healing. Keep the ear clean and dry, and avoid any activity that causes pain or discomfort.

Conclusion: Ruptured Eardrum and Sleep

You now have a clearer understanding of the pros and cons associated with sleeping position when recovering from a ruptured eardrum. The most important takeaway is to avoid any positioning that causes pain or discomfort. Your body will guide you to the safest sleeping position as you heal. While side sleeping may be ideal for some, back or stomach sleeping could be a better option for others. The ruptured eardrum will heal on its own in time. Be patient through the recovery process and make your health and comfort top priorities.

You’ve been given helpful recommendations from medical experts, but you know your body best. Get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, limit stress, and avoid any activities that could further irritate your eardrum. With time and proper self-care, your hearing and balance will be restored.


  • Amelia Griffith

    Amelia Griffith is a distinguished luminary in the field of sleep medicine, possessing a wealth of expertise across various domains that have shaped her into an esteemed authority in the realm of sleep health. Her academic journey commenced at Harvard University, where she obtained a foundational degree in Neuroscience, setting the stage for her subsequent forays into the intricate workings of the brain. Continuing her studies at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, she pursued advanced studies in Neurology, delving deeply into the mechanisms of neurological conditions intricately linked with sleep disorders. Driven by a quest to comprehend the holistic facets of sleep and its implications on mental health, she expanded her horizons into psychiatry during her tenure at Stanford University's Department of Psychiatry. This phase equipped her with a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between sleep patterns and mental well-being. Her passion for pediatric care led her to specialize in pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, where she honed interventions for young individuals grappling with sleep disorders. Furthering her exploration into sleep science and psychology, she enriched her knowledge at the University of Pennsylvania, unraveling the profound impact of psychological factors on sleep quality. Certifications and Degrees: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Neuroscience - Harvard University Advanced Studies in Neurology - Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Specialization in Psychiatry - Stanford University School of Medicine Pediatric Care Specialization - Columbia University Medical Center Expertise in Sleep Science and Psychology - University of Pennsylvania Board Certification in Sleep Medicine from the American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM) Beyond her professional pursuits, Amelia Griffith seamlessly integrates her artistic hobbies into her life. An accomplished painter, she finds inspiration from the intricate patterns of the brain, translating her scientific curiosity into artistic expression. Her love for literature and continuous reading not only expands her knowledge but also fuels her imagination, offering creative solutions to the challenges she encounters in her profession. Family: Amelia Griffith is a devoted mother to two daughters and a son. Her journey through sleep disorders mirrors her family's struggles, providing her with profound empathy and understanding in her professional pursuits. Overcoming these challenges together has strengthened their familial bond, fostering resilience and unity. Amelia Griffith's commitment to excellence and compassionate patient care has earned her admiration within academic circles and among those whose lives she has positively impacted. Her ongoing advocacy for better sleep health reflects her dedication to improving global well-being, leaving an indelible mark in the field of sleep medicine.

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