Ear tubes are used for conditions such as chronic ear infections, eustachian tube issues, and fluid in the ears that has caused hearing loss. The tubes increase ventilation to the middle ear to prevent the accumulation of fluid around the eardrum.

There are several different types of ear tubes. More permanent ear tubes are longer and T-shaped. They provide longer and greater ventilation, but can also cause complications such as chronic ear drainage, and eardrum damage. More temporary ear tubes are shaped like a grommet. Due to their temporary nature, grommet-style ear tubes may require several surgeries for ear issues that persist longer than the ear tube’s lifespan. A third style is in between the permanent and temporary tubes and range in the middle of longevity and potential complications. In short,

Grommet-style ear tube: ~1 year lifespan, low risk of complications

Intermediate ear tube: ~4 years lifespan, medium risk of complications

T-tubes: ~10 years lifespan, higher risk of complications

For patients who have never had ear tubes before, grommet-style ear tubes are typically inserted first due to their low risk of complications. Patients who must have their ear tubes replaced several times may consider intermediate or T-tubes to lessen the number of surgeries required.

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