When middle ear fluid persists for more than four months, tubes are placed in children’s ears to improve hearing. Fluid left in the middle ear for a prolonged period of time can cause hearing loss and chronic ear infection. Ear tubes may be placed in children with greater than 5 episodes of ear infections in a year to reduce the number of courses of antibiotics. Dr. Rosner makes caring for tubes easy.
Ear tubes are tiny cylinders, made from plastic or other materials, which are surgically inserted into the eardrum. They are meant to remain in place from six months to as long as several years; at some point they will either fall out on their own, or will need to be surgically removed. They go by a variety of names including tympanostomy tubes, ventilation tubes, and PE (pressure equalization) tubes.
The surgery, known as a bilateral laryngotomy, is an outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia. Fluid behind the eardrum is suctioned out, a small incision is made in the eardrum, and the tube is inserted. The procedure is quick and painless, and usually takes no longer than 15 minutes.
Laryngotomy is a common and safe procedure, and complications are rare. Occasionally, patients can experience a perforation of the eardrum, scarring, or infection.
Ear tubes provide ventilation to the middle ear and allow fluids to drain, reducing the chances of an ear infection from occurring. They can restore hearing loss caused by excess middle ear fluid, alleviate speech and balance problems, and improve behavior and sleep problems caused by ear infections.
Ear tubes are highly effective in reducing chronic ear infections, though some children (approximately 25%) who receive them before the age of two may need them again.