Ear infections are extremely common in children and nearly every child develops at least one infection by the age of five. These infections are not limited to children and can affect adults as well. Sometimes the ear infections do not resolve and become a chronic problem leading to other issues such as hearing loss or behavior, and speech problems.

If a chronic ear infection is identified, we typically have the patient undergo hearing testing by our Audiology Staff. This helps to identify the presence of any hearing abnormalities.

In these cases, insertion of an ear tube by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat surgeon) may be considered.

Ear tubes are tiny cylinders, of various specialized materials, placed through the ear drum (tympanic membrane) to allow air into the middle ear. Most tubes stay in place for three months to two years before falling out on their own.

Inserting ear tubes is an outpatient surgical procedure done in the hospital, under a general anesthetic for children and usually in the office for adults. Patients should be able to go home the same day and follow up in the office three weeks later.

The primary benefit of ear tubes is reducing the severity and frequency of ear infections. If chronic fluid is present causing a hearing loss, hearing may improve, which is important for learning and speech development in children.

A common problem after the tubes is drainage from the ears.  An antibiotic ear drop will be prescribed after the surgery; instructions will be given at the clinic during the pre-operative visit.  Occasionally, drainage will persist and further treatment is required.   Rarely, a small hole persists in the eardrum after the ear tube has come out. A small operation can fix this should it occur.