What You Should Know about Ear Tube Surgery for Children


Between the ages of 6 months and 2 years, many children have problems with infections in the middle ear. In fact, by the age of three, about 90 percent of children will have had at least one ear infection. These can be caused by a variety of lifestyle and environmental factors such as exposure to secondhand smoke, attending a group daycare, or taking a bottle to bed with them. Some infections are easy to treat with antibiotics while others are caused by a virus and must run their course. When infections don’t go away easily or cause speech delay and hearing loss, your child becomes a candidate for ear tube surgery.

What Happens During Ear Tube Placement?

Ear tube, or tympanostomy tube, surgery is usually done under general anesthesia, so the procedure is conducted in a hospital. This way your child can be monitored by an anesthesiologist. You can expect the procedure to last between 10 to 15 minutes overall.

During the surgery, the surgeon makes a tiny hole in the eardrum after removing fluid in the middle ear through suction. There will be no visible incision site or stitches because the surgeon gains access to the eardrum using the ear canal. After the hole is made, a small plastic or metal tube will be inserted which completes the procedure. Your child will then be taken to an area for recovery and monitored until they wake up. Most kids spend only a couple of hours in the hospital, with younger children and those with major medical problems staying longer.

What Happens After Ear Tube Placement?

Tympanostomy tubes allow air into the middle ear, helping to prevent recurring infections. Sometimes other substances like water will enter the tube, but it’s not normally a problem. Your child’s doctor may just suggest using earplugs during swimming or bathing sessions.

Most ear tubes don’t need to be removed surgically. Instead, they fall out on their own after being pushed out of the eardrum as it heals itself. Tubes usually stay in your child’s ears somewhere between 6 to 18 months, depending on the tube type selected by the doctor. However, if the tube stays in the eardrum longer than 2 to 3 years, surgery may be necessary to prevent an eardrum perforation or debris that forms around the tube.

You should also know that while tubes are effective in reducing chronic ear infections, they don’t always provide a permanent cure. About 25 percent of children who get ear tubes before the age of 2 will need them again later on. 

If your child is suffering from chronic ear infections, Oklahoma Otolaryngology Associates can help.

Contact us today to discuss the treatment options for your young one.

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