Is it Time for Ear Tubes?

As the weather turns colder and we all stay inside, more and more kids (and their parents) will battle ear infections. Also known as otitis media, an ear infection is an infection of the air-filled space behind the eardrum.WHO-TV Story

The infection causes inflammation that enables fluids to build up within the middle ear (acute otitis media), resulting in pain and hearing loss. Over time, inflammation may subside, and fluid may drain. Often, however, the ear retains fluid for months after inflammation has abated (serous otitis media). This can cause significant, prolonged hearing loss with little or no pain.

What causes ear infections?

When the Eustachian tube fails to function properly, normal drainage from the ear to the nasal passage is blocked. This allows bacterial and viral organisms—whether from cold, flu or allergies—to enter the middle ear. Children are often most susceptible to Eustachian tube dysfunction and, as a result, ear infections in general.

How are ear infections treated?

Often, the otitis media infection will clear up on its own. Close monitoring of symptoms and pain management may be all that is necessary. More severe cases, especially in infants, may require antibiotic medications. If fluid buildup and hearing loss persist or if infections recur with frequency, surgical placement of ventilation tubes may be required to prevent lasting hearing problems and other health complications.

How does a ventilation tube work?

A ventilation tube is placed in the ear drum to create an unblocked pathway out of the middle ear. This allows fluid to drain, preventing the recurrence of buildup and infection.

Is tube placement surgery complicated?

No. For most pediatric patients, the procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis, often in just a few minutes. Adults can receive treatment within their ENT physician’s office under a local anesthetic.  After-surgery care requires the simple use of antibiotic ear drops for a matter of days. Tubes typically fall out on their own within a year.