Most people suffer from ear infections from time to time. For some, however, ear infections are common, occurring 4+ times every year. Children who suffer from these chronic infections may be good candidates for tympanostomy surgery. During the procedure, a surgeon places ear tubes to help promote better drainage and ventilation.
Why would someone need ear tubes?
Ear tubes are most common in children, although some adults may need the treatment as well. The surgery is typically done for patients who suffer from chronic ear infections. Children, in particular, are prone to ear infections. If a child has chronic infections or suffers hearing loss from the infections, a physician may recommend tympanostomy surgery. The purpose of ear tubes is to open up the ear canal and provide better drainage.
What happens during surgery
Tympanostomy surgery is done by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. The procedure typically only takes around 15 minutes and is done on an outpatient basis. The surgeon makes a small incision in the eardrum, suctions out fluid, and inserts the ear tubes into the hole in the eardrum.
Typically, patients feel groggy from the anesthesia for the rest of the day. However, ear tube placement is a procedure with no downtime, and most kids resume regular activity within 24 hours. If the reason for tympanostomy was to resolve hearing loss caused by fluid buildup, results are immediate.
What to expect
Patients need to return for follow-up care 2-4 weeks after the surgery. At this appointment, the ENT surgeon checks to ensure the tubes are still in place and working correctly. Additional follow-up is then scheduled at 4-6-month intervals. In some cases, the ENT may also prescribe eardrops to help minimize fluid buildup.
Ear tube removal
In most cases, ear tube removal is not necessary. For most children, the tubes stay in place for 6-9 months and then fall out naturally. If the tubes don’t fall out when the ENT recommends, then surgical removal may be needed. Usually, if ear tubes are still in after 2-3 years, the doctor will recommend surgery for removal. Alternatively, sometimes the tubes fall out sooner than the ENT wants and need to be replaced.
Do ear tubes work?
In most cases, ear tubes can successfully decrease the frequency of infection. The treatment doesn’t prevent all infections, but the tubes can make infections milder and less common. Typically, the hole in the eardrum closes naturally after the ear tubes come out. To learn more about tympanostomy surgery, schedule an appointment with an ENT.