Young child gets ear exam before ear tubes
June 30, 2017 | by Dewayne Bradley MD

More than 500,000 ear tube insertion procedures are performed each year, making it one of the most common surgeries for children. Children ages one to three are more susceptible to ear infections than teens or adults. Ear tube insertion is the most effective long-term treatment for ear infections. Fortunately, they are easy for an ENT specialist to insert and the procedure is fairly short.

Why get ear tubes?

If your child experiences repeated middle ear infections or hearing loss caused by fluid in the middle ear your doctor may suggest ear tubes as a solution. Ear tubes work to relieve pressure in the ear caused by either of these conditions. Also referred to as typanostomy tubes, ventilation tubes, or PE (pressure equalization tubes), ear tubes can be a simple solution to stressful ear related problems. The insertion of an ear tube can reduce the risk of:

  • future ear infections
  • restore hearing loss
  • improve speech, balance, behavior, and sleep problems

What’s Involved in the Procedure

Ear tubes are tiny cylinders placed in the eardrum that allow air into the middle ear. They are classified as either short-term or long-term. Short-term ear tubes are typically in place anywhere from six to 18 months, and will eventually fall out on their own. Long-term ear tubes are in place for over a year and have flanges that hold them in place. They may fall out on their own, or require removal by a physician. Both the insertion of long-term and short-term ear tubes only takes about 15 minutes. To ease irritation or pain, an anesthetic is administered either through a mask or an IV. Once your child is sedated, using a small microscope the doctor will make a small incision in the eardrum. He or she will then insert the small ear tube. The incision is so small that if the ear tube was not in place the hole would close up on its own.

What to Expect Post-Surgery

After surgery, your child will be taken to a recovery room to be monitored. Usually he or she will be released within the hour. There is typically no experience of pain after the procedure, though anesthesia may cause grogginess or nausea for a couple hours as it wears off. You will receive specific instructions from your physician about what to do after the procedure. He or she may suggest keeping your child’s ears dry while bathing, swimming, or doing other water activities.

At The Polyclinic, we have a team of specialists who are experts at inserting ear tubes and do it regularly. This procedure can be done at our new outpatient surgery center, First Hill Surgery Center, and we work hard to get patients in quickly (usually within a week) so they can feel better soon.

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Written By: Dewayne Bradley MD