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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Last Editorial Review: 6/9/2016