Ear infections are the number one reason parents bring their children to the doctor. In fact, most kids have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. In most cases, ear infections can be easily treated with antibiotics. But for children who experience repeated or ongoing ear infections, a doctor may recommend ear tubes.
What Are Ear Tubes?
Ear tubes are a surgical solution for chronic ear infections. Normally, the Eustachian tubes drain fluids from the middle ear and equalize air pressure. Swelling or inflammation can block the Eustachian tubes, causing fluid to build up and become infected. Ear tubes work by keeping this passage open, preventing fluid from becoming trapped.
Ear tube surgery is a very safe procedure with low risk of serious complications. Approximately half a million children undergo ear tube surgery each year. It is the most common childhood surgery performed with anesthesia.
Why Are Children Prone to Ear Infections?
Children’s Eustachian tubes are much shorter and more horizontal than adults’, which is why they have more problems draining. Children also pick up illnesses at daycare and school frequently, which causes inflammation. Those who are exposed to secondhand smoke are especially at risk.
How Do I Know if My Child Needs Ear Tubes?
The telltale sign of an ear infection is a child pulling on their ears. If they are diagnosed with an ear infection, a doctor will likely recommend antibiotics first. Ear tubes are typically recommended if:
- Their ear infection doesn’t improve with antibiotics
- They have had four or more ear infections in a six-month period
- They have had six or more infections in a year
- They have had uninfected fluid buildup for at least three months
What Are the Benefits of Ear Tubes
In addition to treating an ear infection, ear tubes can:
- Reduce risk of future ear infections (80 percent of children stop getting ear infections after surgery)
- Restore hearing loss caused by chronic ear infections
- Improve speech and balance caused by chronic ear infections
- Improve behavior, sleep and learning problems caused by chronic ear infections
For more information about ear tubes or to schedule an appointment, call Topeka ENT today.