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Ear Tubes Care: A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Ear Tubes

Ear tubes, also known as tympanostomy tubes or ventilation tubes, are small tubes inserted into the eardrum to help treat chronic ear infections and other related conditions. If you or your child has recently had ear tubes placed, it's important to understand how to properly manage them to ensure optimal results and minimize complications.

a person's ear being examined with a magnifying glass.

In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about managing ear tubes, including what happens after the procedure, what to look out for, and when to seek medical attention.

When Are Ear Tubes Recommended?

The primary indications for recommending ear tube placement include:

Babies as young as 6 months with frequent ear infections or persistent fluid buildup might require ear tubes, though the most common placement age is between 1 and 3 years. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, children typically have broader and lengthier eustachian tubes by the age of 5, enabling more effective drainage of fluids from the ear.

These tiny tubes generally fall out naturally between 6 and 12 months, but it can take up to 18 months in some cases.

Preparation for Ear Tube Placement

Before the surgery, the patient will typically have a preoperative consultation with the surgeon. During this appointment, the surgeon will review the medical history, perform a physical examination, and discuss the details of the procedure.

At this time, provide the surgeon with your comprehensive medical history, including any allergies, current medications, and previous surgeries. Some medications may need to be adjusted or temporarily stopped before the surgery, so it's crucial to follow the healthcare provider's instructions regarding medication management.

The patient will likely need to fast for a specified period before the surgery. This is to prevent complications related to anesthesia.

What Happens After Surgery

After ear tube surgery, patients may experience a variety of sensations, symptoms, and changes as part of the recovery process. It's important to note that individual experiences can vary, and not everyone will have the same postoperative outcomes.

Initially, there might be a sensation of improved hearing due to the alleviation of fluid or infection in the middle ear. However, as the ears adjust to the presence of the tubes, some may notice changes in their hearing. This adjustment period is usually short-lived, and hearing typically stabilizes.

Patients may feel a popping or clicking sensation in their ears, especially during activities like swallowing or yawning. This is a normal response to the presence of the ear tubes and should not cause concern. Some children with chronic ear infections may experience balance issues.

Baby covering ears after ear tubes/tympanostomy/myringotomy.


Monitoring ear tubes during the initial three weeks after placement is crucial to ensure proper healing and functionality. Here's a guide on what to pay attention to during this period:

1. Ear Drainage

  • It's normal to observe some clear or slightly bloody drainage from the ear immediately after surgery.

  • Monitor the amount and color of drainage. If you notice excessive or discolored drainage, contact the healthcare provider.

2. Pain and Discomfort

  • Mild discomfort or pain is common in the first few days after ear tube placement.

  • Administer prescribed pain relievers as directed by the healthcare provider.

  • Report any severe or persistent pain that may indicate complications.

3. Fever Monitoring

  • Keep track of body temperature. While a mild fever is common in the first day or two post-surgery, persistent or high fever may indicate infection.

4. Observation for Signs of Infection

  • Watch for signs of infection, such as increasing redness, swelling, or a foul odor from the ear.

  • Report any signs of infection promptly to the healthcare provider.

Post-placement Ear Tubes Care

Post-placement care following ear tube surgery is crucial to ensure a smooth recovery and maximize the effectiveness of the procedure. Here are some key aspects of post-placement care for ear tubes:

1. Ear Protection

  • Water Exposure: It's essential to prevent water from entering the ears during activities like bathing or swimming. Use earplugs or custom-fitted ear molds to create a water-tight seal.

  • Shampooing: While washing hair, tilt the head to the side to avoid direct water flow into the ears. Consider using a shower cap or ear protection during hair washing.

2. Ear Drops

  • Your healthcare provider may recommend ear drops to help prevent infection and facilitate drainage through the tubes.

  • Administer ear drops as prescribed, and ensure that the ear canal is clear before applying them.

3. Diet

  • It's generally advisable to stick to a normal, well-balanced diet unless your healthcare provider provides specific dietary instructions.

4. Avoiding Irritants

  • Encourage your child (or yourself) to avoid exposure to smoke, strong perfumes, and other irritants that may affect the delicate ear canal.


Considering ear tubes for your child?

Ensure your child's ear health is in good hands, schedule a check-up, and trust ENT Family for expert care and peace of mind.

Address: 3911 Hollywood Blvd#201, Hollywood, FL 33021, United States

Phone: 754-888-1368


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Dr. David Eleff, Otolaryngologist/Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist at ENT Family in Hollywood, Florida.

This article has been medically reviewed by  otolaryngologist, David Eleff, M.D.

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3911 Hollywood Blvd, Suite 201, Hollywood, FL

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