If you child has recurring ear infections or if fluid pools behind your child’s ear drum for more than three months, his or her pediatrician may suggest inserting tubes in the ears. The tubes are a temporary fix and typically stay in place for 6-12 months.

An ear, nose, and throat specialist inserts small hollow tubes into the child’s ear through a small surgical incision in the ear drum. The child is under general anesthesia (unconscious) for the procedure and can typically go home within 1-2 hours after the surgery is complete. Complications are minimal and often the child feels minimal discomfort and can return to school the next day.

Ear tubes are an investment, however, as although the tubes help to stop infection from occurring while they are present in the ears, regular doctor visits are essential to ensure the tubes stay in place and are doing their job to restore you child’s hearing. Your ENT specialist can advise you regarding care and precautions to take while your child has ear tubes. Water activities like swimming may have to be postponed while the ears heal initially.

Risks are minimal with ear tubes. Like any surgery, it’s possible complications could occur while your child is unconscious. As a result of the tubes, your child’s ear drum may become thick over time, which affects the hearing of a small percentage of children. Puss and other discharge may also be an ongoing problem as a result of the tubes. Infection could reoccur if the tube slips out of place or becomes blocked. It’s also possible the tube could slip into the middle ear, although that is rare.

Speak with your ENT professional about the pros and cons of ear tubes for your child. He or she will be able to explain more about the benefits and risks and help you to decide if it’s best for your child.

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