Does Your Child Need Ear Tube Surgery?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) five out of six children will experience an ear infection by the time they reach the age of three, and while many cases will clear up spontaneously, some may need antibiotics. For other children, ear infections become routine—almost chronic in nature and they can be difficult to treat or clear up completely.

Middle ear infections (also called acute otitis media) can contribute to hearing loss, behavior problems and speech delays. For these children, ear tubes can help eliminate fluid (if present), reduce the likelihood of future infection, and correct hearing issues. 

Indications for ear tube surgery
The decision to move ahead with ear tube surgery is one that should be made by you and your doctor. Also known as a tympanostomy tube placement (TTP) procedure, ear tube surgery is the most common surgical procedure for children that requires general anesthesia. There are clinical guidelines for patient selection, and some indications include:

·  Multiple middle ear infections with or without fluid in the ear
·  Ear infections for three months or longer without clearing
·  Ear infections do not clear, even with antibiotic use
·  Speech or language delays
·  Signs of hearing loss including not responding to sounds or voices

What happens during ear tube surgery?
During surgery, your child will be put to sleep under general anesthesia. A doctor who specializes in ear, nose and throat procedures will make a small hole, or cavity, in the eardrum and remove any fluid if present then place the tube in the hole. This allows air to reach the infected part of the ear. Your doctor may place otic antibiotics into the cavity, and the procedure is done. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes and most children wake quickly from anesthesia.

Usually, there is no pain after the procedure, but children may be sleepy or confused as anesthesia wears off. This is normal and will pass. They also report hearing sounds more loudly or being more sensitive to sound after the procedure. This is to be expected as the fluid that muffled their ability to hear was removed.

Most ear tubes will stay in place for six months to a year before falling out on their own. Long-term tubes stay in place until they are removed by an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor).

Caring for your child after ear tube surgery
Ear tube surgeries are relatively simple and so is their care after surgery. Your doctor will have his or her own set of instructions, but generally speaking:

·  Use antibiotic ear drops if they are prescribed
·  Use ear plugs or other water-tight devices to keep water from entering the ear canal
·  Call your doctor if your child develops a fever or has bad smelling drainage coming from the ear
·  You do not need to restrict your child’s activities

Always follow your doctor’s specific aftercare instructions.

Ear tubes are an option for children and parents struggling with the symptoms of recurring middle ear infections.  Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of ear tube surgery to learn more.

Jada x

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