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Ear Tubes for Children

body-temperature-check-with-an-ear-thermometer-picture-id1268588811Are ear tubes right for my child? 

If your child is suffering from frequent ear infections they may find relief with tympanostosmy surgery, or often referred to as ear tube. Consult with an ear, nose and throat surgeon to see if your child is a good candidate. 

When mother, Kristi Grant noticed her youngest son, Logan, constantly tugging at his ears it was cause for concern. Logan was getting frequent ear infections with high fevers and obvious pain.

Kristi's advice to other parents, "I would tell any parent whose child suffers from severe chronic ear infections to talk with their provider and see if surgery is a good fit,” said Kristi. “I’m so happy I did. Logan’s hearing and quality of life is so much better. He is back to being a happy, healthy, and playful boy.” 

Hear more of Logan's story at spectrumhealthlakeland.org/grant

What are ear tubes for children?

Ear tubes are small tubes that help to drain the fluid out of your child’s middle ear. This reduces the risk for ear infections. The tubes are placed into your child’s eardrum by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon. They may be made of plastic, metal, or other material.

During an ear infection, fluid builds up in your child’s middle ear. This can affect your child's hearing. Sometimes even after the infection is gone, fluid may stay in the ear. The tubes help drain this fluid. This keeps it from building up.

Children are most likely to get tubes between 1 and 3 years old. By age 5, most children have wider and longer eustachian tubes. The eustachian tubes are canals that link the middle ear with the back of the nose. This lets fluid drain better from the ears.

Why might my child need ear tubes?

Your child’s healthcare provider may suggest tubes if your child has fluid in both ears for 3 or more months and hearing problems or fluid in one or both ears for 3 or more months and problems related to having fluid. These issues may include trouble with balance, ear pain, problems in school or with behavior, and frequent ear infections.

The benefits of ear tubes include:

  • Ear tubes may lower your child’s risk for ear infections.  

  • Your child’s hearing may get better.

  • Your child’s speech development won’t be affected.

  • The eustachian tubes can work better.

  • Children's behavior, sleep, and communication may be better if ear infections were causing problems.

How do I get my child ready for ear tubes?

You should talk about the risks and benefits of tubes with your child’s healthcare provider then decide if ear tubes are a good choice for your child. Getting ear tubes placed is normally an outpatient procedure. This means that your child will have surgery, and then go home that same day. 

The surgery to place ear tubes in your child’s ear is called tympanostomy. It takes about 15 minutes. This procedure may include the following:

  • Your child will get general anesthesia. Your child’s healthcare team will watch them closely.

  • The surgeon will make a small opening in your child’s eardrum. This is done to drain the fluid and relieve the pressure from the middle ear. 

  • The surgeon places a small tube in the opening of the eardrum. This lets air flow into the middle ear. It also keeps fluid from building up.

What happens after an ear tube insertion for a child?

Most children can go home 1 to 2 hours after surgery. Your child will need follow-up care from their surgeon. The ear tubes normally fall out on their own in about 6 months to a year.

You’ll get instructions on how to care for your child’s tubes. Your child may need to use ear drops. Your child may also need to wear ear plugs in the bath or when swimming.

Call your child's healthcare provider if you have questions or if your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Drainage from the ear that lasts more than a few days after surgery or more drainage from the ears

  • Ear pain

  • Fever

  • Ear tube that falls out