Everything Ear Tubes: When and Why Your Child May Need Them

Everything Ear Tubes: When and Why Your Child May Need Them

It’s cold and flu season, which may result in more frequent or severe ear infections. While treatment and time resolve most ear infections and related issues, there is always the potential for longer-term complications, sometimes making ear tubes a necessary means of medical intervention. To help kids get the care they need, we have addressed some of the most common ear tube questions.

What You Need to Know

When are ear tubes needed?

It is not unusual to see an increased need for ear tubes during fall and winter months. As people spend more time inside, upper respiratory tract infections spread, sometimes causing ear infections. The issue is not with ear infections themselves, though. The issue lies with the fluid that can linger after infection.

Generally, fluid should clear within three months of the infection’s onset. If fluid remains present longer, it is unlikely to resolve on its own, which can cause discomfort and health issues. Fortunately, ear tubes can help by allowing fluids to drain freely from the middle ear. In some instances, ear tubes are recommended for children who experience recurrent infections (three in six months or four in a year) or when a child has adverse reactions to antibiotics used to treat ear infections.

Outside of ear infections, ear tubes can help resolve issues with negative pressure in the middle ear. In this instance, ear tubes work by allowing pressure in the middle ear to equalize to ambient pressure.

Why Ear Tubes?

Middle ear issues can affect a child’s hearing and speech during key developmental years. More, these issues can result in sleep and overall health issues. Ear tubes are a quick, easy and relatively painless way to treat a common and stressful problem.

What are ear tubes?

Ear tubes are plastic or silicone implants placed in the eardrum. Some ear tubes are coated with material that helps prevent the formation of biofilms (a collective of microorganisms), reducing the risk of future infection and improving overall ear health.

How long are ear tubes present?

Most ear tubes are designed to last 3-12 months before falling out on their own. Children who require multiple sets of ear tubes can have longer-term tubes placed, usually lasting 2-3 years. Children’s skulls and nasal anatomy changes in a favorable way between ages 6-8. However, some individuals have issues with the inner ear and need ear tubes most of their lives.

How are ear tubes placed?

An Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon usually places ear tubes during outpatient surgery while a child is under general anesthesia.

Consult an Expert

If you think your child may need ear tubes, talk to your pediatrician about referring you to an Ear, Nose and Throat expert.

Connect with an Olathe Health pediatrician.

Learn more about Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat.