Known as otitis media, ear infections are caused by a number of factors, both physical and environmental. While most common in children between the ages of six months and two years, they can affect patients of all ages.
Most ear infections clear up on their own, or are treated with antibiotics. But in some patients, they can become a chronic problem. For those with chronic ear infections, ear tubes may be recommended.
What Are Ear Tubes?
Ear tubes are tiny cylinders, made from plastic or other materials, which are surgically inserted into the eardrum. They are meant to remain in place from from 2 months to 2 years and most will fall out on their own. They go by a variety of names including tympanostomy tubes, ventilation tubes and PE (pressure equalization) tubes.
The outpatient surgery is known as myringotomy. While adults typically only require topical anesthesia, general anesthesia is administered to children. Fluid behind the eardrum is suctioned out, a small incision is made in the eardrum, and the tube is inserted. The procedure is quick and painless, and usually takes no longer than 15 minutes.
Myringotomy is a common and safe procedure, and complications are rare. Occasionally, patients will experience a perforation of the eardrum, scarring or infection.
Benefits of Ear Tubes
Ear tubes provide ventilation to the middle ear and allow fluids to drain, reducing the chances of an ear infection from occurring. They can restore hearing loss caused by excess middle ear fluid, alleviate speech and balance problems, and improve behavior and sleep problems caused by ear infections.
Ear tubes are highly effective in reducing chronic ear infections, though some children (approximately 25 percent) who receive them before the age of two may need them again.
Call ENT Specialists of Arizona at (480) 894-5550 for more information or to schedule an appointment.