Ear, Nose & Throat

Common Questions About Children’s Ear Tubes

written by Becki Andrus
Common Questions About Children's Ear Tubes

Has an ENT recently suggested that your child needs ear tubes? As a parent, it’s normal to have many questions about any medical procedure performed on your child.

Ear tubes can be an effective way to provide relief for a child who suffers from multiple ear infections. However, before you decide that this treatment is right for your child, you are invited to talk to our experienced team to learn more about this treatment.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about children’s ear tubes:

How Do Ear Tubes Work?

The purpose of ear tubes is to help excess fluid drain out of the ears, which helps to reduce the risk of infection.

The tubes are positioned in the eardrum through a small hole that allows drainage. This opening reduces pressure and provides ventilation in the ear, which promotes healing and reduces the risk of infection in the future.

What Happens During Ear Tube Surgery?

Ear tube placement is one of the most common surgical procedures for children. It is a fast procedure that only takes a few minutes.

This is what happens during ear tube surgery:

  • A mask is used to deliver anesthesia to the child, so they are still, calm, and don’t experience pain during the procedure.
  • A microscope and a small blade are used to create a small incision in the eardrum.
  • Next, the surgeon places a tiny tube in this incision.
  • Ear drops are dropped in.
  • This process is repeated in the other ear.

Not only is this treatment quick and easy, but the child won’t feel the tubes after the surgery. Most kids feel better the next day and return to normal daily activities.

What Care and Treatment Are Necessary After Ear Tube Surgery?

The good news is that there isn’t much you need to do after the ear tubes are placed. No maintenance is required. Watch for the tubes to come out at some point, which usually happens about a year after the surgery.

During recovery, there are no activity or diet restrictions.

Try to minimize water exposure immediately after the treatment to give the ears time to heal. Then, there’s no need to worry about bath time or getting the child’s head wet after healing has occurred. But, consider using earplugs if the child is spending time in dirty water, such as a river, lake, pond, or ocean.

How Do Ear Tubes Come Out?

Most of the time, ear tubes will stay in the ear for about a year. But every child is unique – and the time frame depends on how the child’s body responds to the treatment.

After the ear tubes are placed, the eardrum slowly heals and starts to push the tube out. The tube will move into the ear canal and then come out completely. There is no need to schedule another surgery for ear tube removal.

As the parent, you might not notice that the ear tube falls out because it is stuck in a little bit of ear canal wax. A pediatrician can check the child’s ears and clean out the wax and dislodged tube if needed.

So, don’t be worried about the ear tube falling out of the ear. That is how this treatment is designed to work.

How Do Ear Tubes Affect a Child’s Hearing?

It’s possible that ear tube placement can have an effect on your child’s hearing. Since ear infections and buildup of the fluid result in muffled hearing (or even temporary hearing loss), ear tubes can potentially improve the child’s hearing.

Before the ear tubes are put in, it’s likely that your child will have a quick hearing screening to use as a baseline. Then, additional hearing screenings after the ear tube placement can show the hearing improvements that have occurred.

What Should I Do If an Ear Tube Gets Clogged?

Because the ear tube is so tiny, there is a risk of the tube getting clogged. For example, if a piece of ear wax gets lodged, it can block the drainage.

If the tube is clogged or gets crusted up, the ear tube can no longer drain the infection or fluid. As a result, ear infections and symptoms might come back again.

In this situation, it’s time to visit the ENT. Don’t try to unclog the tube on your own. The tube can be unclogged, or it might be necessary to insert another tube if the original tube is no longer working.

How Many Ear Infections Indicate a Need for Ear Tubes?

Ear infections can be common in children, causing the child to experience pain and the parent to experience concern. However, just because your child has one ear infection doesn’t mean that you need to talk to an ENT about ear tubes.

The frequency and pattern of ear infections indicate a need for tube placement. The most common guidelines for deciding whether ear tubes are as follows:

  • Three occurrences of ear infections in six months
  • Or, four ear infections in a year

These frequencies are just general guidelines. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to medical treatments.

Instead of simply counting ear infections to determine if ear tubes are needed, it’s more critical for the ENT to look at other factors, such as hearing loss or chronic fluid behind the eardrum.

What is the Most Common Age for Ear Tubes?

There aren’t any age requirements for this ear treatment. In some situations, it is necessary for adults to get ear tubes!

But most kids grow out of frequent ear infections by the age of 5. Doctors usually don’t recommend ear tubes before a child is six months old.

Will Repeat Ear Tubes Be Necessary?

Ideally, the first set of ear tubes will be sufficient for treating chronic ear infections.

But there are instances where the ear tubes fall out, and the child still needs this treatment. So, it might be necessary to put the tubes back in a second time.

If the child still has chronic ear infections and unresolved issues, talk to your ENT about treatment options going forward.

Is it Time to Schedule an Ear Tube Consultation with an ENT?

If your child is experiencing repeat ear infections, talk to an ENT about treatment options. In some situations, a primary care physician might refer you to visit with an ENT because of the ongoing ear infections.

When you are searching for an ENT in Collin County or Dallas, we invite you to reach out to our team at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat. We provide two convenient offices in Frisco and Plano, TX. You can request an appointment using our online form or call our office at (972) 596-4005.

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