Ear infections are extremely common in kids. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately five out of six children experience at least one ear infection by their third birthday. In fact, ear infections are the most common reason for parents to bring their child to the doctor.
The reason for this is that children’s Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the throat, are much shorter and more horizontal than adults’, meaning they can easily become blocked and cause fluid to be trapped. This fluid can then become infected with bacteria and, voilà, a middle ear infection is the result.
In severe or chronic cases of middle ear infections, ear tubes may be the recommended solution.
What Are Ear Tubes?
Ear tubes are tiny tubes made of plastic or metal that are surgically inserted into the eardrum. They work by equalizing pressure across the eardrum and allowing the infected fluid to drain from the middle ear.
“Young children are at risk for ear infections because their eustachian tubes and immune systems are immature,” explained Christopher Liu, M.D., pediatric otolaryngologist at Children’s Health and assistant professor at UT Southwestern. “Ear tubes allow for the treatment of ear infections with ear drops alone.”
Ear tubes also benefit children who are prone to fluid buildup in the middle ear, even if it does not become infected.
When Are Ear Tubes Recommended?
There is no particular age range when ear tubes are recommended; they can benefit anyone of any age. Typically, they are recommended for children who…
- Experience more than three ear infections in a six-month period
- Experience more than four ear infections in a year
- Have conductive hearing loss caused by fluid buildup
How Are Ear Tubes Placed?
The surgery to place ear tubes is called a myringotomy, which is a 5-10 minute outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia. Most children return to normal activities by the next day.
The tubes typically stay in place from six months to a year before falling out on their own. If they don’t fall out, the doctor may let them stay in place for a few years before removing them in order to prevent future infections. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the experts at The House Institute today.