Source: ENT Health
Most children have experienced at least one painful ear infection by the age of five. Many ear infections resolve on their own, especially if they are viral, and some bacterial infections require treatment with antibiotics. Sometimes recurrent ear infections and/or persistent fluid in the middle ear may become a chronic problem leading to other issues such as hearing loss, poor school performance, or behavior and speech problems. In these cases, insertion of ear tubes by an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist, may be considered.
Ear tubes are tiny cylinders placed through the ear drum (called tympanic membrane) to allow air into the middle ear. They may also be called tympanostomy tubes, myringotomy tubes, ventilation tubes, or PE (pressure equalization) tubes.
These tubes can be made of various materials, and come in two basic types: short-term and long-term. Short-term tubes are smaller and typically stay in place for six months to two years before falling out on their own. Long-term tubes are larger and have flanges that secure them in place for a longer period of time. Long-term tubes may fall out on their own, but removal by an otolaryngologist may be necessary.
Who Needs Ear Tubes and Why?
Ear tubes may be recommended when someone experiences repeated middle ear infection (acute otitis media), or has hearing loss caused by persistent middle ear fluid (otitis media with effusion) that don’t get better. These conditions most commonly occur in children, but can also be present in teens and adults, and can lead to speech and balance problems, hearing loss, poor school performance, or changes in the structure of the ear drum.
Other less common conditions that may warrant the placement of ear tubes are malformation of the ear drum or eustachian tube, Down syndrome, cleft palate, and barotrauma …