What Every Parent Needs to Know About Ear Tube Surgery

Most babies and toddlers between the ages of 6 months and two years old suffer through an ear infection or two. While they may seem miserable at the time, these infections typically resolve themselves, restoring peace once again.

If your child’s ear infections are frequent and hard to treat, however, ear tube surgery may relieve their pain and stave off hearing loss and issues with speech development.

At Southern ENT, our teams of highly trained physicians at our six locations in southern Louisiana specialize in pediatric care and understand the importance of early intervention to prevent the potentially serious problems that come with chronic ear infections.

Since October is National Audiology Awareness Month, we thought we’d take this time to explain why your child might need ear tube surgery and what it entails.

The buildup

Infections in a child’s middle ear are fairly common because their eustachian tube is much shorter and more horizontal than an adult’s, which leaves it more prone to clogging up. The eustachian tube’s primary purpose is to drain fluid from the middle ear in order to equalize the pressure between this area of the ear and the outside world (think about when your ears pop as you gain or lose altitude).

In a child with a shorter tube, fluid may not drain properly, which can lead to a buildup of fluid and pus if an infection develops.

This clog leads to pressure against your child’s eardrum, which may become great enough to rupture it, especially if your child suffers from chronic ear infections (three or more in six months), or acute otitis media as it’s medically known.

The procedure

If your child suffers from chronic middle ear infections that threaten their eardrums, not only is their hearing in peril but their ability to develop speech as well. To prevent this from happening, the doctors at Southern ENT turn to a fairly simple surgical technique where they place tubes in your child’s ears that regulate the pressure by promoting drainage and proper airflow.

The doctors typically place the tubes in both of your child’s ears in a procedure called a bilateral tympanostomy. To do this, they first put your child under general anesthesia. Once your child is ready, they make tiny holes in your child’s eardrums and suction out any fluid they find inside.

Next, they thread the tiny tubes through the holes and leave them in place to promote airflow and prevent fluid from building up again. Our doctors usually perform this procedure in less than 15 minutes as an outpatient procedure, and your total time invested is only a few hours.

The relief

When your child wakes up, they should feel immediate relief from the chronic ear pain. The tubes continue to do their work for another six to 18 months before they fall out on their own. By then, your child’s ears will have developed. Further, so more tubes usually aren’t necessary, though they might be worth revisiting if the infections start up again.

If the tubes don’t come out on their own, the doctor may have to go back in and remove them during a quick surgical procedure, but this doesn’t happen often.

If you have more questions about ear tube surgery or you’re wondering whether it’s a good solution for your child’s ear problems, please give us a call or use the online scheduling tool on this website to set up a consultation.

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