How are ear tubes placed in the ear?

Ear tube surgery (myringotomy) is usually performed while the patient is under general anesthesia (put to sleep). It can also be done in adults with a local anesthetic (the patient remains awake).

During the surgery:

  • The surgeon makes a small incision (cut) in the eardrum. The incision can be made with a scalpel or with a laser.
  • The fluid that is trapped in the middle ear is drained or suctioned out.
  • The doctor then inserts the tube into the incision in the eardrum to allow fluid to drain out of the ear.

In some cases, the surgeon may also remove the adenoids (glands that are located above the roof of the mouth and behind the nose). Adenoids are part of the immune system and help protect the body from viruses and bacteria. Removing the adenoids may prevent the need for future ear tube surgeries.

Ear tube surgery is performed in the hospital or in the doctor’s office. It usually takes less than 15 minutes, and the patient goes home the same day (outpatient surgery).

What happens after ear tube surgery?

The patient will spend some time in the recovery room after ear tube surgery. He or she may have some side effects from the surgery and anesthesia, including grogginess and nausea.

The patient will see the doctor again after the surgery to make sure the tube remains in the eardrum and is working correctly. The surgeon may prescribe antibiotic ear drops to prevent infection in the ear. In addition, the surgeon may recommend that the child wear ear plugs during certain activities, such as swimming and showering.

The eardrum usually closes around the ear tube to keep it in place and prevent it from falling out early. The ear tubes will usually fall out in 9 to 18 months. If the tubes do not fall out within 2 years, the surgeon may have to remove them.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/19/2018.


  • American Academy of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery. Ear tubes Accessed 6/22/2018.
  • Merck Manual. Myringotomy. Accessed 6/22/2018.
  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Ear Infections in Children. Accessed 6/22/2018.

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