Placing Ear Tubes
Rodney Lusk, M.D.
Hi, I'm Doctor Rodney Lusk, Director of the Boys Town Ear, Nose and Throat Institute.
Placing ear tubes in children is extremely safe. In fact, it is the second most common procedure in pediatrics.
There are numerous indications for tubes. Some indications include; recurrent ear infections with fluid, recurrent acute otitis media, persistent acute otitis media, hearing loss caused by fluid, unacceptable antibiotic burdens from acute otitis media. There are other situations which could warrant tube insertion by your ENT specialist.
The procedure for tubes is generally lasting only about 10 minutes. It requires a short, mask general anesthetic and it may take place in a hospital or in a surgery center. In a normal ear the Eustachian tube provides drainage and ventilation to the middle ear. When inflammation or infection block the tube, fluid can build up in the middle ear.
During surgery a tiny hole is placed in the ear drum which allows removal of fluid from the middle ear. To keep the hole open a tube is placed through the hole. Tubes resolve the conductive hearing loss if it is secondary to fluid and hearing should return to normal.
Tubes also decrease the incidence of recurrent ear infections. Tubes allow treatment of middle ear infections with drops instead of oral antibiotics. This provides a much higher concentration of antibiotics where you need them.
Tubes are not a cure all.
Some parents expect tubes to result in no more colds, no more nasal drainage, no more ear infections and no more illness. It is important to understand that the tubes only address the middle ear disease and bypass the Eustachian tube.
The frequency of ear infections will decrease but infections may still occur with colds.
However, tube insertion is associated with short term quality-of-life improvements and improvement in behavior.
For more information and videos on pediatric ear, nose and throat conditions, please visit boystownent.org