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Ear Tubes Relieve Pressure & Improve Hearing

By HERWriter
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When your child has an ear infection, extra fluid can build up behind the ear drum inside the middle ear. If this fluid repeatedly gets infected, your doctor may recommend that your child get tubes inserted into the ear drum to allow the fluid to drain.

Ear infections are a common part of growing up. In fact, by age five, almost every child has had at least one painful ear infection. For most children, these infections either clear up on their own or are easily treated with antibiotics. But when ear infections become chronic or happen repeatedly, other problems can develop including hearing loss and problems with behavior and speech. In these situations, inserting tubes in the ear drum may help.

Ear tubes are most often recommended for young children between the ages of one and three years old. Each year, more than 500-thousand ear tube surgeries are performed on children, making this the most common childhood surgery performed with anesthesia. This procedure can also be used to help teens and adults with speech and balance problems, hearing loss, and changes in the structure of the ear drum.

What are ear tubes?
Ear tubes are tiny plastic or metal cylinders. They are also sometimes called drainage tubes, tympanostomy tubes, or ventilation tubes. A doctor who specializes in treating the Ears, Nose, and Throat (Otolaryngologist or ENT) will perform the surgery. Your child will receive a light anesthetic to help him sleep during the procedure, which only takes about 15 minutes. Using a tiny scalpel or laser, the doctor makes a small hole in the ear drum and suctions out the fluid from the middle ear. He then inserts the tube into the hole in the ear drum. Ear tubes typically remain in place from 6 months to a year. In young children, these tubes often fall out on their own as the ear drum grows. If the tube doesn’t fall out, it may be necessary to surgically remove it.

How do ear tubes work?
When the middle ear becomes infected, fluid can build up inside the middle ear. This causes pressure that makes the ear hurt. It also puts pressure against the inside of the ear drum which prevents the ear drum from vibrating the way it is supposed to. When the ear drum can’t vibrate, hearing is muted or may be temporarily lost. Ear tubes allow the fluid in the middle ear to drain. This releases the pressure on the ear drum and allows it to vibrate so hearing is restored. Just making a hole in the ear drum can release the pressure temporarily, but without the tube in place to keep the hole open, the hole will seal itself in just a few days.

After surgery, you should expect to see drainage from the ear for up to a week. Fluid may appear to crust on the ear, or to seep out of the ear. This is normal. Drainage may be clear, green, yellow, brown, pink, or bloody. If drainage from the ear doesn’t stop after a week, contact your child’s doctor.

Why should my child get ear tubes?
Ear tubes allow the fluid in the middle ear to continue to drain over time. Ear tubes often result in these improvements:

• Fewer ear infections
• Better hearing
• Clearer speech and improved ability to learn new sounds and words
• Improved sleep patterns

If you or your child has repeated ear infections, talk to you doctor to see if you should see an Otolaryngologist, to find out if ear tubes might be the treatment you need.

American Academy of Otolaryngology –Head and Neck Surgery
Mayo Clinic

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

My child has an ear infection. His doctor advised that ear tube should be inserted in his eardrum. I am a bit afraid as a mom whose child will undergo surgery. I'll just pray that my child will be safe. http://www.tinnitusgoaway.com/high-pitch-ringing-in-ears/

May 24, 2013 - 6:22pm

Since writing this article, I can speak from personal experience about having an ear tube put in. I fought a middle ear infection for several months that lead to my ear drum rupturing, then needing to be re-ruptured by my ENT to drain the fluid accumulation. In the process, the infection traveled to my inner ear and aggravated my auditory nerve so that I lost all healing in that ear for about a month. That has since been resolved and I now have a tube in that ear to relieve the pressure. Although it sounds frightening to have your ear drum punctured for any reason, I can tell you that the relief from pain and pressure is worth the momentary discomfort. As an adult, my ENT put drops in my outer ear to numb the area, then inserted the tube in just about a minute. There was a small amount of pain but it was nothing compared to the pain I'd been living with from the recurring infections and fluid accumulation. My ear problems are exacerbated by chronic sinusitis that causes repeated swelling in my nasal tissues, and by smaller than normal eustachian tubes. I encourage anyone having these kinds of problems to talk to your doctor to see if ear tubes can help. Don't let the idea of having the tube put in prevent you from talking about this procedure which can potentially be very helpful.

March 2, 2010 - 1:24pm
EmpowHER Guest

why not use eardoc tak a look at www.eardoc.info

December 6, 2009 - 10:14pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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