David K. Hill, MD, is one of Olathe Medical Center’s Ear, Nose and Throat (Otolaryngology) doctors. Below are his answers to common questions parents have about ear tubes.
1. Why is this procedure so common?
Many young children have Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD). This leads to pain, hearing loss and recurrent ear infections. Tubes help stop all of these problems.
2. Can the need for ear tubes be prevented?
Sometimes. Severe allergies contribute to ETD, so treating allergies may help. Frequent hand washing and washing toys may also help by decreasing the likelihood of infection.
3. Are the tubes permanent? How long do they last?
Different tubes are constructed to stay in for different lengths of time. The tubes most commonly used typically fall out 12 to 18 months after insertion.
4. Do ear tubes prevent all future ear infections from reoccurring?
Not necessarily. But, with tubes in place, middle ear infections typically become few and far between.
5. Do ear tubes cause permanent scarring of the ear drum?
No. Ear infections are the cause for this scarring, which is commonly seen.
6. Can the procedure affect the child's hearing in a negative way?
It is possible for any ear surgery to have a negative impact on hearing, but it is very uncommon. With tubes, I usually see a child with hearing loss before surgery attain normal hearing after the tubes are placed. I typically check hearing before and after surgery so that parents know how well their child is hearing.
7. How do I know if my child needs ear tubes?
Your pediatrician may recommend that your child see a specialist for ear tubes if he or she has had the following:
- Three-to-four ear infections in six months or four-to-six in 12 months
- Three back-to-back antibiotic treatments for an ear infection
- Three months of persistent fluid behind the eardrum
- Hearing loss or speech delay