For children who suffer from ear infections from an early age, ear tubes can be a very effective solution, and they’re something we at Westchester Health recommend for many of our young patients with ear issues. The average age for ear tube insertion is 1-3 years old. To learn more, Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group, has written a very informative blog on the subject.
What can ear tubes do?
- Reduce the occurrence of future ear infections
- Restore hearing loss caused by a build-up of middle ear fluid
- Improve speech problems and balance problems
- Improve behavior and sleep problems caused by chronic ear infections
- Help children do their best in school
Your child might benefit from ear tubes if he/she:
- Has had three or more ear infections within six months, especially if they retain fluid in between the episodes
- Has ear infections that are not resolved with antibiotics
- Has ear infections that are affecting their gross motor skills and/or balance
- Is experiencing hearing loss caused by the persistent build-up of fluid in the middle ear
- Has a collapsing eardrum, a condition known as atelectasis which causes decreased hearing and can also erode the bones in the ear
- Is at higher risk for fluid build-up-related developmental delays, including those with autism, permanent hearing loss, Down syndrome, cleft palate or any other developmental delay
- Has malformation of the eardrum or eustachian tube that inhibits drainage of the middle ear
Ear tubes: the facts
Usually made of plastic, these small tubes (1/20th of an inch) are surgically inserted into the tympanic membrane (ear drum) while the child is under light anesthesia. This allows air to flow in and out of the middle ear, which typically reduces the number of ear infections by ventilating and eliminating the pressure inside the middle ear. A child should not be able to feel the tubes while they’re in the ear.
Ear tubes come in two basic types: short-term and long-term. Short-term tubes are smaller and typically stay in place for 6-18 months before falling out on their own. Long-term tubes are larger and have flanges that secure them in place for a longer period of time. Long-term tubes may fall out on their own, but removal by an otolaryngologist may be necessary.
The good news is that children with ear tubes are able to play in water, swim and bathe without wearing earplugs. If the water is more than six feet deep, a child with ear tubes should wear ear protection.
To learn more
For more information about ear tubes and ear infections, you might find this article from the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation helpful.
If you think your child may need ear tubes, please come see us
If your child is having persistent ear infections or other problems with his/her ears, please make an appointment with Westchester Health to see one of our pediatricians. We’ll examine your child and together with you, choose the best treatment to clear up the condition, which may or may not include ear tubes. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.