Medical Definition of Ear tubes

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ear tubes: Formally known as tympanostomy tubes, ear tubes are small tubes, made of several different materials, which are inserted into the eardrum (the tympanum or tympanic membrane) to keep the middle ear aerated for a prolonged period of time. To insert a tube, a myringotomy (a surgically placed tiny incision in the eardrum) is made. Any fluid or infection, if present, will be removed at the time of placement. The ear tubes usually remain in place for 6 months to several years. The instruction to keep water out of the ears if tubes are in place has been relaxed by many doctors and the recommendation to use ear plugs is not as common as it once was. Eventually, most tubes will move out of the eardrum (extrude) on their own and fall into the ear canal. The doctor may take the tube out of the ear canal during a routine office visit or it may simply fall out of the ear canal without the child realizing it.

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Reviewed on 12/4/2018

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