It’s not uncommon for children to experience ear infections. By the age of 5, most boys and girls have had at least one, and most infections resolve themselves or can easily be treated with antibiotics. However, some kids may have chronic middle ear infections and/or fluid in their middle ear that can lead to further health problems including hearing loss and behavior and speech problems.
When this is occurs, the recommendation may be the insertion of ear tubes, which are small cylinders placed through the eardrum to allow air to flow to the middle ear.
Ear tube surgery, or myringotomy, involves a small incision being made in the eardrum, which can be done with a small scalpel and a surgical microscope or a laser. An ear tube is placed through the incision to ventilate the inner ear. Short term tubes last approximately six months and fall out on their own, and long term tubes have flanges to secure them in place for an extended period of time.
Younger children will most likely be anesthetized during the procedure, but some older children may be able to tolerate the surgery without anesthetic. The procedure lasts an average of about 15 minutes. After the surgery, patients typically experience little or no post-op pain, though they may temporarily experience grogginess, irritability and/or nausea from the anesthesia.