The following post was written by Dr. Robert Weiss MD and Director, CT ENT
Connecticut Center for Advanced ENT Care’s Dr. Robert Weiss, treats all aspects of Ear Nose and Throat problems in children. He has distinguished his practice utilizing the latest technology for better outcomes and safety.
Each year, over 700,000 children have ear tubes placed according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Still, many parents hesitate to get tubes for their child due to a variety of reasons including concerns regarding anesthesia. Dr. Weiss offers information below to help parents through the decision making process.
What does the tube do?
The tube creates an artificial opening into the ear space. Fluid is able to drain and the child’s hearing is restored and future ear infections are prevented. Tubes generally stay in place 6-12 months and fall out on their own.
Usually, by this time, the child’s own ear drainage system (eustachian tube) is mature enough to work on its own.
Who should consider tubes?
Consider tubes if fluid in the ear has persisted for more than three months and does not respond to medication. Also, children that have multiple or back-to-back ear infections may be candidates for tubes. Hearing loss may also be a symptom of chronic fluid in the ear, which can be alleviated by tubes.
Does the anesthesia needed for the surgery put my child in danger?
This is an extremely safe and highly effective procedure. The reason most parents vacillate is the fact that the child has to undergo anesthesia. The type of anesthesia used is one of the safest there is. There are no breathing tubes or IVs needed. The child breathes the anesthesia in through a mask. The procedure takes 5 to 10 minutes and kids do not typically experience side effects.
Can issues with fluid in the ear cause hearing loss?
Ear infections that go untreated, or that don’t respond to antibiotics can damage the ear causing hearing loss and permanent damage. The age range for tubes is generally anywhere from 6 months to 5 years old. During this time, children are at a critical stage for language development. If they aren’t hearing well due to fluid, they may be missing out on crucial learning.
Will my child have to wear ear plugs in the water if they get tubes?
In the past, earplugs were recommended for patients with tubes during water activities. New studies show that children do not need to wear earplugs for swimming, bath or shower time.
Will antibiotics take care of an ear infection or fluid?
There is a movement to keep antibiotics out of kids’ bodies. The Scandinavian style of treating ear infections is to not prescribe antibiotics. In fact, 6 out of 8 infections are resolved without the use of antibiotics. Tubes are another way of accomplishing that.