Is Ear Tube Surgery the Answer?
The second most frequently diagnosed childhood illness in the United States is ear infections. The buildup of fluid in the middle ear creates pressure, which results in pain and sometimes a decrease in hearing. Most children experience at least one ear infection by the time they are three years of age. For others, ear infections are a common occurrence and parents look for options to stop their frequency and ease their child’s pain. Enter: Ear tube surgery.
About Ear Infections
Ear infections commonly occur in children because their eustachian tubes are shorter, narrower and less rigid than that of adults. This makes it easier for bacteria and viruses to travel to the middle ear and cause an infection.
Depending on the age of the child, they will react differently to the infection. Young children may tug at their ear and avoid eating, while older children will complain that their ear hurts. If the fluid buildup within the ear gets too high, the eardrum can rupture. When this happens drainage from the ear will be released, relieving pressure.
Most ear infections will resolve on their own, however, some require antibiotics. Pediatricians may recommend ear tube surgery when a child has multiple middle ear infections that do not resolve easily or if the child is showing signs of hearing loss.
How Ear Tube Surgery is Performed
Ear tube surgery (myringotomy) is a quick procedure that takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. Performed by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor), ear tube surgery typically occurs in an outpatient setting. General anesthesia is often required for young children, or for adults, local anesthesia is provided.
During the procedure a small incision is made in the tympanic membrane of the eardrum, the middle ear fluid is then drained and ear tubes are placed through the opening. The tubes allow air to enter the middle ear and help prevent future infections.
More than half a million ear tube surgeries are performed on children annually. It is a good solution for most children truly need it and are candidates. Ear tube surgery recovery is fast and the tubes typically fall out within 9 to 18 months as the eardrum heals.