If your child gets frequent infections or fluid build-up in his middle ear, your doctor may recommend ear tubes. Some adults might need them, too, but it’s not as common.

A doctor will have to do a brief surgery to put them in. Your doctor may put in antibiotic ear drops during or after the surgery to help prevent infections.

Once in place, the tubes can help you or a child in your care get relief from the pain and loss of hearing from these infections.

How Do Ear Tubes Work?

They help improve air flow and balance pressure in the middle ear, the space right behind the eardrum. This allows fluid to drain out better.

If you’re child has trouble with balance or delays in learning because of hearing problems, those will likely improve in the weeks and months after the tubes are in place.

Your child can still get ear infections with tubes, but usually not as many. The infections also won’t cause hearing loss and tend to go away on their own or with antibiotic eardrops.

What’s the Surgery Like?

The first step for younger children is to get medicine so they’ll sleep through the surgery. The main reason for this is to make sure your child doesn’t move during the procedure.

You’ll take your youngster to a hospital or outpatient surgery center, and doctors keep a close eye on his heart rate, oxygen, and blood pressure to make sure everything’s going well.

Older children and adults can have the surgery while they’re awake. For them, it can be done in the doctor’s office.

The surgery itself takes about 15 minutes and has three steps. The doctor will:

  • Make a small opening in the eardrum
  • Drain fluid
  • Place the tube in the opening