Sound Health Services

What Are Ear Tubes and Who Needs Them?

Ear Tube KidsIt’s common for kids to have ear infections, but if your child has them frequently and antibiotics don’t work, his or her doctor may recommend ear tubes. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, ear tube insertion is the most common childhood surgery performed with anesthesia.

Why Is Ear Tube Insertion Necessary?

During a cold or upper respiratory virus, bacteria can travel from the nasal cavity into the ear, stimulating inflammation and causing fluid to build up behind the eardrum. This is a problem especially with children because their small eustachian tubes are more likely to become clogged with the extra fluid. Without medical intervention, this can lead to hearing loss, speech delays, and behavioral issues.

How Does Ear Tube Insertion Help?

An ENT doctor uses tiny tubes called tympanostomy tubes into the eardrum to allow excess fluid to drain more easily. This helps reduce ear infections and the pain they cause by:

Equalizing pressure. Ear tubes allow air to enter the ear to reduce pressure and prevent liquid from building up in the middle ear.

Draining fluid. Ear tubes allow pus and mucus buildup to drain out of the ear without causing pain.

Make it possible to use antibiotic ear drops. Ear tubes act as a passageway where ear drops can travel straight into the ear, often eliminating the need for oral antibiotics.


How Is Ear Tube Insertion Performed?

Under general anesthesia, the ENT surgeon performs the following steps. The procedure takes only 10-15 minutes.

  • Makes a tiny incision in the eardrum to make a hole for the tube.
  • If necessary, uses a tiny vacuum to suction excess fluids from the middle ear.
  • Inserts the tube into the hole to allow air to enter and to drain fluids. Short-term, smaller tubes will stay in for 6-12 months and fall out on their own, while long-term larger tubes often stay in for several years or until surgically removed.


What Is Recovery Like?

Patients usually stay in the recovery room for a brief time and go home the same day. The doctor will recommend over-the-counter pain relievers for discomfort, and will often prescribe antibiotics or eardrops to prevent infection. You will be told to cover your child’s ears while bathing or swimming so bacteria doesn’t enter.

Shortly after surgery, your child should have fewer ear infections, sleep better, and hear better.

Sound Health Physicians Are Experts at Treating Ear Infections

If your child experiences reoccurring ear infections, make an appointment with one of our ENT doctors today. We will review his or her medical history and perform a detailed exam to determine if ear tubes may provide relief. Call us today at (314) 729-0077 in MO or (618) 235-3687 in IL.