Ear tube insertion involves placing tubes through the eardrums. The eardrum is the thin layer of tissue that separates the outer and middle ear.
While the child is asleep and pain-free (general anesthesia), a small surgical cut is made in the eardrum. Any fluid that has collected behind the eardrum is removed with suction through this cut.
Then, a small tube is placed through the eardrum. The tube allows air to flow in so that pressure is the same on both sides of the eardrum. Also, trapped fluid can flow out of the middle ear. This prevents hearing loss and reduces the risk of ear infections.
The procedure is performed because the buildup of fluid behind your child's eardrum may cause some hearing loss. But most children do not have long-term damage to their hearing or speech, even when the fluid is there for many months.
Ear tube insertion may be done when fluid builds up behind your child's eardrum and:
- Does not go away after 3 months and both ears are affected
- Does not go away after 6 months and fluid is only in one ear
Ear infections that do not go away with treatment or that keep coming back are also reasons for placing an ear tube. If an infection does not go away with treatment, or if a child has many ear infections over a short period of time, the doctor may recommend ear tubes.
Ear tubes are also sometimes used for people of any age who have:
- A severe ear infection that spreads to nearby bones (mastoiditis) or the brain, or that damages nearby nerves
- Injury to the ear after sudden changes in pressure from flying or deep sea diving
After the procedure, children most often stay in the recovery room for a short time and leave the hospital the same day as the ear tubes are inserted. Your child may be groggy and fussy for an hour or so while waking up from anesthesia. Your child's doctor may prescribe ear drops or antibiotics for a few days after the surgery.
After this procedure, most parents report that their children:
- Have fewer ear infections
- Recover more quickly from infections
If the tubes do not fall out on their own in a few years, an ear specialist may have to remove them. If ear infections return after the tubes fall out, another set of ear tubes can be inserted. If you think your child may need ear tubes, call to make an appointment to see one of our physicians - 361-573-4331.