When (and Why) to Consider Ear Tubes for Your Child

When (and Why) to Consider Ear Tubes for Your Child

Did you know ear tube surgery (tympanostomy) is the most common pediatric surgery in America? Over half a million children undergo this procedure every year, which is usually performed to reduce the occurrence of and complications associated with chronic ear infections. 

But since ear infections are incredibly common, with five out of six kids experiencing at least one by their third birthday, it can be challenging to know when and why you might consider ear tubes for your little one. 

The board-certified ear-nose-throat (ENT) providers at Jacksonville ENT Surgery with offices in Lake City, Florida, and multiple locations in Jacksonville, Florida, specialize in treating ear infections and associated complications in people of all ages. 

While anyone can get an ear infection, young children are more susceptible because their tubes and the spaces in their ears are so small, making it easy for bacteria to spread to the middle ear and cause fluid buildup. 

The good news is that for most children, ear infections resolve with appropriate medical care and time. For some kids, however, ear tube surgery can help end chronic ear infections and protect their hearing. 

What you need to know about ear tubes

Ear tubes are surgically placed to help equalize pressure across your child’s eardrum. This helps fluid and bacteria to move out from the space in the middle ear behind the eardrum where ear infections are most likely to develop. 

We use general anesthesia to keep your child comfortable during the surgery. Once they’re resting, your Jacksonville ENT Surgery provider makes a small incision in their eardrum and places the tubes in their middle ear.

After the tubes are in place, your child is moved to a recovery room. Most children return home within a few hours and are back to normal within 24 hours, though they should rest the day of surgery. 

Keep in mind that after a tympanostomy, your child may still get ear infections. However, after getting ear tubes, most children experience a dramatic decrease in infections. 

When infections do occur after a tympanostomy, they’re generally much easier to treat and clear faster than before the surgery, protecting your child’s hearing. Children also have less pain during post-tympanostomy infections.

When and why to think about ear tube surgery for your child

Not all children who get ear infections are good candidates for ear tubes. Be sure to talk to an ENT specialist for expert advice. In the meantime, here are the three most common reasons to consider a tympanostomy:

1. Your child’s ear infections aren’t easy to treat

Most ear infections respond well to antibiotics. But in some children, ear infections don’t clear even after taking medications. In this case, your provider may talk to you about ear tubes. 

Difficult-to-treat infections can occur because of the small spaces in your child’s ear, which can make it hard for fluid to move out of the area where the infection develops. Treatment-resistant ear infections can also happen due to “superbugs” (bacteria strains that resist all antibiotics). 

2. Your child has recurrent ear infections or fluid buildup

If your child has three or more ear infections within six months or more than four ear infections a year, it may be time to consider a tympanostomy. 

This is because if your child has chronic ear infections, fluid or pus can build in their middle ear, causing significant pain and other serious problems, including:

If your child experiences recurrent ear infections or if your provider tells you there’s significant fluid buildup in their ears, it’s time to consider ear tubes. 

3. There are issues with your child’s eardrum or ear bones

Some children who deal with chronic ear infections develop a condition called atelectasis

This develops when the eardrum thins out and collapses onto the bones inside the ear responsible for sound transmission. 

If this happens to your child, your provider may recommend ear tubes to protect their hearing and prevent further damage.

Find out if ear tubes are right for your child

The best way to learn if ear tubes are right for your child is by talking to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. At Jacksonville ENT Surgery, your provider communicates with your child’s pediatrician to make sure we explore all options. 

If ear tubes are the best choice for treating your child’s ear infections, we do our best to reduce the risk of recurrence by creating a personalized treatment plan that may include medications and noninvasive preventive care techniques along with the surgery. 

Learn more about ear tubes by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at Jacksonville ENT Surgery. 

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