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Ear tubes- When is it time to consider them?

Feb 27, 2024
Ear Exa,
Ear tube placement is the most common surgical procedure performed on children at Advanced Specialty Associates. We will walk you through the process and make sure all of your questions are answered.

Ear tubes--When is it time to consider?

Ear tube placement is the most common surgical procedure performed on children.  Ear tubes are placed most often in children because they are at higher risk for eustachian tube dysfunction, which is a major contributing factor to the development of chronic middle ear fluid and/or infection.  Adults can have ear tubes placed too!  Ear tubes are typically performed on children as an outpatient (no overnight hospital stay) surgical procedure under anesthesia. Ear tube placement is considered by ENT professionals when: (1) there is chronic fluid build up in the middle ear for longer than 12 weeks time that is affecting hearing, (2) chronic fluid build up in the middle ear contributing to recurrent ear infections--defined as 3 documented infections within 6 months or 4 documented infections in a year AND middle ear fluid noted on exam between these infections (3) a truly chronic infection of the middle ear that is not responding to antibiotics.  We do not place tubes on normal, clear, ears.  Ear tubes are designed to extrude (fall out) of the ear drum on their own--this typically occurs 3-18 months after they have been placed.  We do not put tubes back in ears just because they fall out.  We would consider putting them back in if a patient starts to have middle ear issues again, as described above.  Possible risks of ear tube placement include: scarring of the eardrum (tympanosclerosis), residual perforation (a hole in the ear drum that does not heal and may need additional surgical procedures in the future to close it), permanent hearing loss (very rare), and ear infections.  If a patient develops an ear infection (ear drainage) while tubes are in place, we can treat those infections topically with antibiotic ear drops.