An explosion can cause primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary injuries to the ear; some of these injuries can be fatal.
Blast Wave Injuries
The initial blast wave (overpressure) of an explosion can exert enough force on the tympanic membrane (eardrum) to rupture or destroy it and to fracture or dislocate the ossicles (bony structures) in the middle ear causing hearing loss.
In addition to the role it plays in hearing, the eardrum also acts as a protective barrier that prevents bacteria, water, and other debris from entering the middle ear. Ruptured eardrums can lead to a number of complications including:
- Cholesteatoma: A cyst or abnormal skin growth in the middle ear that can: destroy the bones inside the ear, erode the bones of the skull, lead to paralysis of eye and facial muscles, and cause permanent hearing loss, brain access, meningitis, and death.
Symptoms of a Ruptured Eardrum
- Hearing loss
- Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ear)
- Clear, bloody or pus-filled fluid drainage from the ear
- Spinning sensation
Ruptured eardrums can heal on their own over time. Complications that can occur during this process are hearing loss, infection, and the formation of a cyst.
Ruptures that don’t heal on their own must be repaired with one of two procedures performed by an Ear Nose and Throat specialist or Otolaryngologist. In the first procedure, myringoplasty, the rupture is covered with patch made of gel or film. In the second procedure, tympanoplasty, the patient’s own tissue is used to create a graft that closes the hole.
No surgeries are without risk of complication. Adverse outcomes of eardrum repair procedures include: damage facial nerves or the nerve controlling your sense of taste, damage to bones in the middle ear, hearing loss, and cholesteatoma (see above).
Treatment for Damaged Ossicles
When the bony structures of the middle ear are severely damaged, the can be replaced with bones from a donor or prosthetics during a surgical procedure called ossiculoplasty.
Penetrating Trauma From Flying Debris
Secondary injury in a blast occurs when shrapnel or flying debris pierces the body, creating an open wound. This type of injury most commonly affects the external ear and can involve extensive damage to the skin covering the cartilage of the ear.
Injuries From Being Thrown by the Blast
All of the blunt force injuries caused by the blast wave can also occur if a person is thrown by the force of the blast.
Our law firm has information on other injuries: