People of all ages can get ear infections, but they are especially common among children. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, ear infections are the most common reason for doctor visits in children.
Most ear infections are treated with antibiotics, but in some cases, ear tubes may be necessary. Here’s what parents need to know, including how tubes work and signs your child needs them.
Ear tubes are small cylinders that are typically made out of plastic or metal. To understand how they work, it’s helpful to learn how ear infections occur.
Most ear infections affect the middle ear, which is the area located between the eardrum and the inner ear. Fluid from the middle ear is supposed to drain through the Eustachian tubes, which connect to the nasal passages.
If the Eustachian tubes swell, fluid will build up in the middle ear and cause pain and discomfort. Ear tubes are substitutes for Eustachian tubes that aren’t working properly.
Myringotomy is the procedure that is performed to place ear tubes in your child’s ears. During myringotomy, the surgeon will make a small incision in the eardrum, which will allow the fluid from the middle ear to drain and relieve pressure inside the ear. Then, the surgeon will place an ear tube in this opening to prevent fluid from reaccumulating.
The tubes will usually fall out on their own as the hole in the eardrum begins to heal. In some cases, they may need to be surgically removed.
Most ear infections are treated with antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. But a doctor may recommend ear tubes if your child:
If your child meets one or more of these conditions, ear tubes might be the most effective way to treat their ear infections. Schedule an appointment with their doctor as soon as possible, especially if symptoms are severe and painful. Rocky Mountain Health Plans (RMHP) Members who want to find a provider for their child can use our convenient online provider search tool to find the right doctor.
Ask these questions, and others, before making a decision about ear tubes:
Every child’s situation is unique, but the answers to these questions will help you make an informed decision regarding your child’s healthcare.