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The human ear is made up of two chambers. The inner ear and the middle ear. The middle ear is sealed off from the outside environment by the tympanic membrane - or eardrum. In a healthy ear, this membrane acts to protect the delicate interior of the ear from contamination.
Occasionally, however, allergy, infection, or other irritation can cause a buildup of pus, blood and other fluids within the middle ear. In these cases, the seal created by the eardrum acts to prevent proper drainage and can actually pose a health risk.
Symptoms can include pain - caused by the buildup of pressure - and even hearing loss. If left untreated the buildup of fluid can damage the delicate structures located behind the eardrum - leading to temporary or even permanent hearing loss.
A myringotomy is a simple procedure in which a small tube is inserted into the eardrum in order to allow fluids to drain out of the middle, reducing pressure and allowing any infection to be treated with antibiotics.