Ear Tubes (Myringotomy & Tympanostomy Tubes)

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Ear tubes facts

  • Recurrent ear infections may require insertion of ear tubes.
  • Ear tube placement involves a tiny incision in the ear drum.
  • It is helpful to understand what to expect before, during, and after surgery.
  • Ear tubes can have complications, it is important to follow of the doctor's directions following surgery.

Introduction

The following information is provided to help you understand more clearly the associated benefits, risks, and complications of ear tube surgery. Ask your doctor any questions that you feel necessary to help you better understand the procedure.

What is the purpose of ear tubes?

Middle ear infections (otitis media) are common in children. When a child has repeated ear infections or fluid build-up in the ears that do not go away easily or  there are hearing problems or speech delays, a doctor may recommend surgery to insert an ear tube to allow the eardrum to equalize the pressure.

The surgery, called a myringotomy, is a tiny incision in the eardrum. Any fluid, usually thickened secretions will be removed. In most situations, a small plastic tube (a tympanostomy tube) is inserted into the eardrum to keep the middle ear aerated for a prolonged period of time. These ventilating tubes remain in place for six months to several years. Eventually, they will move out of the eardrum (extrude) and fall into the ear canal. Your doctor may remove the tube during a routine office visit or it may simply fall out of the ear.

Less common conditions that may call for the placement of ear tubes are malformation of the ear drum or Eustachian tube, Down's syndrome, cleft palate, and barotrauma (middle ear injury caused by a reduction of air pressure), according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/13/2015
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