Ear Tube Surgery for Toddlers

Ear tube surgery for toddlers helps improve breathing and middle ear health. However, chronic middle ear infections are the most common reason for surgery. The medical term is otitis media, which is a middle ear infection that will not go away.

The infection causes fluid buildup in the middle ear, leading to hearing loss, pain, and other problems.

Surgery helps a constant flow of fluid behind the eardrum discharge through the ear tubes. Ear tubes are tiny tubes that are surgically placed in the eardrum to help with the following:

  • Ventilation
  • Drainage
  • Equalization of air pressure

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Signs & Symptoms of Needing Ear Tubes

Common signs and symptoms of needing ear tube surgery include:

  • Balance problems
  • Difficulty with speech development
  • Drainage from the ears
  • Fluid buildup in the middle ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Snoring or noisy breathing in infants.
  • Sudden changes in hearing
  • Unusual irritability or fussiness in infants or toddlers

Most often, an Ear Nose and Throat specialist will be referred if your child has an ear infection three times or more in six months.

How Long Do Ear Tubes Last?

The most common age for requiring ear tube surgery is between six months and three years old.

The tubes are usually made of plastic or metal and remain in place for six months to two years. After that, the tubes will fall out on their own. Sometimes, a doctor may need to remove them earlier if required.    

The benefits of ear tube surgery for toddlers include:

  • Quicker resolution of fluid buildup in the middle ear  
  • Improved drainage of fluid in the ear 
  • Improved hearing  
  • Reduced ear infections and pain  
  • Better sleep  
  • Improved behavior due to the relief of discomfort and pressure in the ears  
  • Decreased risk of complications from recurrent or chronic otitis media.

A smiling little Hispanic girlWhat to Expect After Surgery?

Although most children recover quickly from ear tube surgery with minimal discomfort or pain, some may experience slight discomfort or irritability following the procedure.

Children may also be sensitive to noise for several days after the procedure.

Some toddlers may experience drainage from their ears that is clear, yellow, or bloody.

The drainage should resolve on its own within a few days. After the procedure, antibiotic ear drops may be prescribed to prevent infection.

In some cases, pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may also be recommended for any lingering discomfort.

Most patients will experience complete relief of their symptoms within a few days.

About Ear Tube Surgery

The treatment for ear tube surgery is typically a simple procedure. Generally, the patient will be placed under general anesthesia.

Then a surgeon will make small incisions in the eardrum to allow the insertion of tiny tubes in the middle ear.

The tubes will help to keep the pressure equalized between the inner and outer ear. This relieves the uncomfortable symptoms associated as fluid builds up behind the eardrum.

Over time, the tubes will typically fall out on their own. Then the patient will no longer need to undergo any additional treatment.

However, follow-up visits to the doctor are always recommended to ensure proper healing and no complications have arisen.

How Can You Prevent Ear Tube Surgery?

Preventing ear tube surgery is possible by reducing the risk of middle ear infection. These include:

  • Avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke or any other type of air pollution
  • Not swimming in polluted water
  • Keeping water out of ears
  • Keeping ears dry while showering or bathing

Additionally, keep up with regular checkups with a healthcare provider. Taking steps to manage allergies and sinus problems can also help reduce the risk of recurrent middle ear infections.

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