Ed Sheeran to Undergo Surgery on His Ear

Singer Ed Sheeran has had quite a year- selling out three shows at Wembley Stadium, winning  British Male Solo Artist and British Album of the Year at the 2015 Brit Awards, and co-hosting the 2015 MTV Europe Music Awards. He finishes his final world tour dates in New Zealand this weekend.

He certainly deserves a rest, although he will be getting a forced “vacation” in January. Sheeran announced that he will be undergoing surgery on his ear to repair a ruptured eardrum. He will be forced to stay home and prohibited to fly for a period of time after the procedure.

Sheeran told Australia’s Nova radio that he got the hole in his eardrum “because I stupidly jumped off a yacht really high up and smashed it. I landed wrong and it burst my eardrum.”  The procedure will require the placement of a graft to close the hole in his eardrum.

Apparently Sheeran didn’t even know the eardrum was ruptured until he went into the water again:

“It’s the most painful thing having a hole in your eardrum and having water go in.”

Some ear anatomy:

595px-Blausen_0328_EarAnatomyThe ear is made up of three parts:

  • the outer ear (the external ear and the ear canal)
  • the middle ear (the ear drum and three very small bones)
  • the inner ear (the cochlea and auditory nerve)

The middle ear is an air-filled cavity behind the eardrum, the tympanic membrane. It includes three bones called ossicles: the malleus (or hammer), incus (or anvil), and stapes (or stirrup). The stirrup is the smallest bone in your body.

Sound that travels through the outer ear impacts on the tympanic membrane (ear drum), and causes it to vibrate. The three ossicles bones amplify the sound waves, and pass them on to the inner ear. The inner ear begins processing the sound waves. A snail-shaped cochlea is filled with fluid. Sound waves cause the fluid to move and the movement is picked up by sensory cells. These cells send electrical impulses to your brain, where it is processed into meaningful sounds.

What Is a Ruptured Eardrum?

A ruptured eardrum is a tear or hole in the tympanic membrane. Damage to the eardrum may harm hearing.

There are several possible causes of a ruptured eardrum. The most common is a consequence of an ear infection, most frequently in children. The infection causes pus to build up behind the eardrum. The increased pressure causes pain, and can lead to the eardrum breaking open.

Other causes include:

  • A very loud noise close to the ear, such as a gunshot
  • A rapid change in ear pressure, which may occur when flying, scuba diving, or driving in the mountains
  • Foreign objects in the ear
  • Injury to the ear (such as from a powerful slap or explosion)
  • Inserting cotton-tipped swabs or small objects into the ears to clean them

The symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include:

  • Ear pain (which may actually decrease in intensity if it is caused the the release of pressure from an ear infection)
  • Drainage from the ear (which can be clear, bloody, or pus-like
  • A buzzing or humming sound (tinnitus)
  • Decreased hearing in the affected ear

In severe cases, there may be weakness of the face or dizziness.

How is a ruptured eardrum treated?

The opening in the eardrum usually heals by itself within 2 months. It is usually recommended that the ear be kept clean and dry during the healing period. Your doctor may recommend putting cotton balls in the ear while showering and to avoid swimming or  putting your head underneath the water.

Any hearing loss from a ruptured eardrum  is usually short-term.

In cases where the opening in the eardrum is very large or does not heal on its own, surgery may be done to repair the hole. A piece of tissue, called a graft, is inserted into the ear to cover the opening. Frequently this tissue is taken from the patient. Above the ear is a muscle, which is covered by a strong material connective tissue called fascia. A piece of this fascia can be removed without harming the function of the muscle.  The fascia is laid into the ear and heals as the new eardrum.


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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