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Pediatric Ear Tubes

If your child frequently has ear infections, he or she may be a candidate for ear tubes. These tiny hollow cylinders are inserted into the eardrum to prevent the accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum. Left untreated, this fluid build-up can cause hearing loss and affect speech development (particularly among very young children). Ear tubes are most commonly used for children because their narrower, horizontally angled Eustachian tubes are more likely to become clogged than those of adults, leading to chronic ear infection. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, most children experience at least one ear infection before age five.

Should my child have ear tubes?

Ear tubes are designed to provide drainage and ventilation when there is fluid trapped behind the eardrum after a middle ear infection has been successfully treated; or when you experience hearing loss as a result of fluid build-up, have experienced three or more separate middle ear infections in six months or four or more episodes in a year; have chronic middle ear infections that are not resolved with antibiotics; or have a perforated eardrum as a result of chronic infection.

What to expect

The insertion of ear tubes is a relatively safe procedure with few complications. Some children may experience bleeding, infection, persistent fluid drainage, blocked tubes, or scarring as a result of ear tube placement. It is usually performed under general anesthesia and takes only about 15 minutes. The surgeon will make a tiny incision in your child's eardrum, suction fluid from the middle ear, and then place the tubes through the opening in the eardrum.

In most cases, a child can resume normal activities within 24 hours after the procedure, though he or she may be sleepy as the anesthesia wears off. At the follow-up appointment two to four weeks after the procedure, Dr. Raja will ensure that the tubes have been properly placed and are working effectively. Ear drops may be prescribed to help minimize drainage, and ear plugs should be worn when your child is swimming or bathing. After six to nine months, the tubes should fall out on their own, though they sometimes need to be surgically removed.

Say goodbye to ear infections

In most cases, the placement of ear tubes results in fewer ear infections, improved hearing, improved speech, and improved sleep due to the relief of discomfort associated with infection. If your child experiences frequent ear infections, call Dr. Raja for a consultation to learn more about whether ear tubes may help relieve this painful condition.

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