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Tympanostomy in Children: Should My Child Get Ear Tubes?

Updated: Jan 24



Ear infections are a common problem among children. In some cases, they can lead to hearing loss, speech delays, and other complications. One treatment option that doctors may recommend is ear tubes. But what are ear tubes, and how do they work? And most importantly, should your child get them?



What are Ear Tubes?

Ear tubes are small, hollow tubes that are placed in the eardrum to help equalize pressure and drain fluid from the middle ear. They are a common treatment for children with ear infections, chronic fluid buildup in the middle ear (otitis media with effusion), or hearing loss caused by fluid in the middle ear.


Ear with Tympanostomy Tube

Learn more about the benefits and risks of ear tubes here.



When should ear tubes be considered in children?

Ear tubes are a treatment option for children of all ages, from infants to teens. Here are key scenarios when pediatric ENT specialists might recommend ear tubes:


  1. Recurrent Ear Infections: If a child experiences multiple ear infections within a specified timeframe, especially when these infections persist despite antibiotic treatments, ear tubes may be considered.

  2. Persistent Fluid in the Ears: Chronic fluid buildup in the middle ear, known as otitis media with effusion (OME), can impact hearing and potentially lead to speech and language delays.

  3. Hearing Difficulties: If a child experiences persistent hearing difficulties due to chronic fluid or recurring infections, ear tubes can help improve hearing by providing a pathway for ventilation and drainage in the middle ear.

  4. Speech and Language Delays: When chronic ear issues contribute to speech and language delays, and other interventions have not yielded sufficient improvement, ear tubes may be recommended to address the underlying ear health concerns.



How it's done

One of the key considerations when contemplating ear tubes for your child is understanding the procedure involved. While it's a common and relatively straightforward surgery, knowing what to expect can ease any apprehensions.


Ear tubes are usually placed in an outpatient procedure that takes about 15-30 minutes. The procedure is done under local anesthesia, so your child will not feel any pain. Most children can go home on the same day as the procedure.


Preparation

Upon medical clearance from the child's primary providers, a thorough examination shall be performed. At this time, it is essential to inform the healthcare team of any existing health conditions or medications your child may be taking.


Incision and Tube Placement

The surgeon makes a tiny incision in the eardrum to access the middle ear. Through this incision, the ear tube is inserted. The tube acts as a ventilator, allowing air to flow in and preventing fluid buildup.


Follow-up Appointments

Follow-up appointments with your child's ENT specialist are crucial to monitor the ear tubes' effectiveness and address any concerns you may have. While it may vary, patients are typically asked to come back a month after the procedure, and every six months after until the ear tubes have fallen out.



Recovery

The recovery after ear tube insertion is generally smooth, and most children resume their regular activities shortly after the procedure.


Postoperative Care

Discomfort after ear tube insertion is typically minimal. Over-the-counter pain relievers, as recommended by the pediatric ENT specialist, can be used to manage any mild pain or discomfort.


To prevent water from entering the ears, your child may need to wear earplugs or use a shower cap when bathing. This helps protect the ear tubes and reduces the risk of infection.


Prognosis

The prognosis for children undergoing ear tube insertion is generally positive, offering relief from recurrent ear infections and persistent fluid in the ears. The tubes typically fall out the ear within 6-12 months and following this procedure, many parents observe that their children experience:


  • Reduced frequency of ear infections

  • Prompter recovery from infections

  • Enhanced hearing capabilities



 


Are you concerned about your child's ear health?


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 suite 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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