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 Ear Tubes for Chronic Ear Infections

Child's ear

​​​​​​​Each year, more than half a million ear tube surgeries are performed on children, making it the most common childhood surgery performed with anesthesia. Children who receive these surgeries are typically between the ages of 1–3. What are ear tubes and how might it help your child? Boys Town Ear, Nose and Throat​ is here to answer your questions.

When is it time to get ear tubes?​

Many children experience ear infections (also known as Otitis Media), especially between the ages of 6 months and 2 years and the problem can be common until the age of 8.

  • Painful ear infections can develop when fluid is trapped in the middle ear and is especially common during the cold and flu seasons.
  • While most children will have at least one ear infection, over one-fourth of these children will have repeated infections.
  • Inserting ear tubes by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) may be considered with recurrent ear infections that may cause your child to be sick frequently, not sleeping well, behavior or speech problems and possible hearing loss.

What are ear tubes and how are they placed?

Ear tubes are small cylinders with a tiny hole through the center that are placed through the ear drum (tympanic membrane) to allow fluid to drain and relieve pressure.

  • The (Eustachian) tube, it may also be called, Tympanostomy, Myringotomy, Ventilation, or PE (pressure equalization), creates and allows an equalization of air pressure between the outer ear and the middle ear by replacing air that has leaked out into the surrounding tissue.
  • There are two types of ear tubes:
    1. Short-term tubes are smaller and typically stay in place for six months to a year before falling out on their own.
    2. Long-term tubes are larger and stay in place for a longer period of time and may fall out on their own but removal by an otolaryngologist may be necessary.
  • ​​The procedure lasts about 10 minutes and requires a short general anesthetic. During surgery, a tiny hole is placed in the ear drum where the ear tube is placed allowing the removal of fluid from the middle ear.

How will ear tubes help my child?

Ear tubes can help decrease hearing loss and return your child’s hearing to normal as well as reduce chronic ear infections and improve speech delays and articulation. Ear tubes do not eliminate colds or nasal drainage and may not completely remedy all ear infections and illnesses but your child is likely to benefit from quality-of-life health improvements. If your child is having recurrent ear infections, talk to your child’s doctor or contact an ear, nose and throat specialist.