Most children will have an ear infection at some point in their life, and all of us experience fluid buildup in our eardrums every once in awhile. However some kids suffer from recurrent ear infections and/or have fluid that remains behind the eardrum causing hearing loss. In those cases, an otolaryngologist may decide to temporarily or permanently put ear tubes in the ear drum (tympanic membrane), a procedure called myringotomy. WebMD explains that this procedure is done to:
- Allow air to enter the middle ear
- Allow fluid to flow out of the middle ear through the tube into the ear canal
- Clear the fluid from the middle ear and restore hearing
- Prevent future buildup of fluid in the middle ear while they are in place
- Decrease the feeling of pressure in the ears, which reduces pain
The procedure is done under local or general anesthesia on an outpatient basis and only takes about one to three hours. Most kids can return to their regular activities the next day, with a few restrictions that mostly have to do with getting water in the ears, such as when bathing and swimming.
What exactly are ear tubes? The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery explains:
These tubes can be made out of various materials and come in two basic types: short-term and long-term. Short- term tubes are smaller and typically stay in place for six to eighteen months before falling out on their own. Long-term tubes are larger and have flanges that secure them in place for a longer period of time. Long-term tubes may fall out on their own, but removal by an otolaryngologist may be necessary. They also may be called tympanostomy tubes, myringotomy tubes, ventilation tubes, or PE (pressure equalization) tubes.
Regular follow-ups are required while the ear tubes are in place, and there are a few risks associated with them, such as tearing, scarring or infection. In rare cases the tubes may fall out before expected or stay in longer than expected, however these conditions are rare and treatable.
If your child is experiencing hearing loss or frequent ear infections, talk to your doctor about ear tubes. They will likely refer you to an ENT such as our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat. Our staff will make you and your child feel at ease from the moment you walk in the door and throughout the entire process. We’ll begin by talking to you and your child about their medical history and symptoms. Next, we’ll perform thorough testing including one using a pneumatic otoscope, an instrument that gently puffs air against the eardrum and assesses eardrum movement. Once we determine the what is causing the issues, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan that is perfect for your child.
Call (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices and have your child feeling great and yelling “Hear! Hear!” in no time.
For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.