When your child has chronic ear infections, you know what it means when they cry hard and pull on their ears. It may feel like they just got over the last ear infection, and now your child is in pain again.
Chronic ear infections are hard on the whole family. That’s why your doctor might recommend your child get ear tubes to help them hear and feel better.
What are ear tubes?
Ear tubes, also called tympanostomy or ventilation tubes, are small, metal or plastic tubes placed in a hole in your child’s eardrum. They don’t cause any pain or discomfort in your child’s ear. They won’t be able to feel them, you won’t be able to see them, and they don’t interfere with your child’s hearing. In fact, they might make your child’s hearing better.
Does my child need ear tubes?
Thousands of children get ear tubes every year. They are a common treatment for ear infections that won’t go away or keep coming back.
Ear infections can be hard to treat, as the virus or bacteria is behind your child’s eardrum. An ear tube creates an opening so you can get antibiotic drops right to the infection and get rid of it faster.
Ear infections can also cause painful fluid build-up in your child’s ear. Ear tubes allow that fluid to drain out, relieving the pressure. That fluid can also cause trouble with hearing and balance. If your child can’t hear well, it can slow their language development. Ear tubes help restore their hearing.
What do I need to know about ear tube surgery?
Ear tubes are placed during an outpatient surgery. That means your child goes home just an hour or so after their surgery is over.
An otolaryngologist, also called an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor, will put in your child’s ear tubes during a 15-minute procedure. When the ear tubes are put in, your child will be under general anesthesia and won’t feel any pain and discomfort.
After your child’s tubes are in place, you’ll need to go to follow-up appointments with your child’s otolaryngologist to check on how your child’s ears are doing. If they had hearing loss, they might need a hearing test.
After 6 months to two years, your child’s ear tubes will fall out by themselves. You probably won’t even know when it happens. Their eardrum should heal up on its own, but your doctor will make sure it does during a follow-up exam.
At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, our expert otolaryngologists perform hundreds of ear tube procedures every year. We help your child hear better — and feel better — without constant ear infections. Learn more about our otolaryngology services.