Does your child experience frequent or severe ear infections? If so, their pediatrician may refer them to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician to have ear tubes placed. Below we review everything you need to know about ear tubes, including whether or not they need to be removed.
What Are Ear Tubes?
Ear tubes, also known as tympanostomy tubes, are small, hollow cylinders made of metal or plastic. They are surgically placed in a child’s eardrum.
Why Are Ear Tubes Placed?
Children’s Eustachian tubes, which are the passageways between the middle ear and the back of the throat, are shorter and more horizontal than adults. So, when they become inflamed due to illness or allergies, fluid becomes trapped in the middle ear. The purpose of placing ear tubes is to help drain the fluid and prevent future ear infections.
How Is Ear Tube Surgery Performed?
Pediatric ENT physicians perform ear tube surgery in their clinics.
Before the procedure, your child will be put under general anesthesia. While they’re under, your child’s care team will monitor their heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen to ensure they’re safe throughout the procedure.
Then, the physician will make a tiny incision in the eardrum, suction fluid out of the middle ear and insert the tube.
The entire procedure only takes about 15 minutes.
Your child will be moved to a recovery room and should be able to go home within a few hours.
How Do I Care for My Child After Ear Tube Surgery?
It’s important to make sure water doesn’t get in your child’s ears while they have ear tubes. To prevent this, you may need to have them wear earplugs when bathing and when swimming.
If your child is prescribed antibiotic eardrops, apply them as directed.
In addition, you should attend all scheduled follow-up visits.
Do Ear Tubes Need to Be Removed?
In many cases, ear tubes fall out on their own between four and 18 months after they’re placed. If a tube doesn’t fall out after 18 months, it may need to be surgically removed. However, if the ear tube falls out too soon, a new one will need to be placed.
You’ll follow up with your child’s ENT physician about every six months to see if the tubes are still in place. To learn more about ear tubes or to schedule an appointment with an expert pediatric ENT physician, call Albany ENT & Allergy Services today.