Sometimes it seems like neither of you can catch a break from their recurring (and painful) ear infections. While ear infections (acute otitis media) are common, getting them over and over might mean it’s time to try a different treatment option.
Cleveland Clinic Children’s is here to help. We can offer relief for children by putting in ear tubes (tympanostomy). Ear tubes (also known as pressure equalization tubes) release fluid from behind your child’s eardrum during an active infection. Ear tubes don’t prevent ear infections, but they can give your child relief and avoid the need for oral antibiotics. Our team will guide you through every step of the procedure — answering your questions and supporting you throughout the entire process.
Why Choose Cleveland Clinic Children's for Ear Tube Surgery in Children?
We take the time to get to know you and your child so we can be sure that placing ear tubes (tympanostomy) is the right treatment for them. We’ll go over all parts of the surgery and explain the ways it could help improve your child’s health, hearing and language development.
We do hundreds of ear tube surgeries each year. You can feel confident in our skills and experience, knowing your child will be in expert hands during diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Meet our team.
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Ear Tube Surgery Evaluation in Children
There can be several reasons why your child might need ear tubes. But one of the most common is frequent ear infections. When your child has an ear infection, infected fluid develops behind their eardrum, causing pain, swelling and hearing problems. Sometimes this fluid (effusion) doesn’t go away after an infection clears up — and that can cause problems, too.
If your child’s had three to four infections in six months or six to seven infections in a year, your provider might recommend ear tubes — small, hollow cylinders inserted into your child’s eardrum to help drain trapped fluid.
What to expect at your first appointment
The first appointment is all about getting to know you and your child. We want to hear about daily life and the things that have been going on. Be ready to talk about any symptoms you’ve noticed, as well as your child’s medical history. We’ll want to know about any past ear infections or other conditions they’ve had. Also, bring your questions. Our team will listen and explain everything they can.
Next, we’ll look in your child’s ears using a magnifying device called a pneumatic otoscope. This puffs air into their ear canal. The puff of air causes a healthy eardrum to move back and forth. If it doesn’t move, there’s usually fluid trapped behind it.
During this exam, we’ll also keep an eye out for noticeable signs of infection — a swollen or red eardrum, throat or nasal passages. If we think your child might have hearing problems from all these ear infections and trapped fluid, we might also order a hearing test with an audiologist.
Meet Our Tympanostomy Team
At Cleveland Clinic Children’s, your child will have a team of expert providers helping them every step of the way. This team could include:
Providers Who Perform Pediatric Ear Tube Surgery
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What to Expect When Your Child Has Ear Tube Surgery
We understand you might be feeling a little stressed about your child having surgery. But getting ear tubes is one of the most common surgeries in children — and usually takes only about 15 minutes.
Your child won’t feel any pain or remember what happened during their ear tube surgery because they’ll have general anesthesia. Our team will keep a close eye on them during the procedure to make sure they’re OK and stay asleep. Once they’re asleep, their surgeon will make a small incision (cut) in their eardrum and drain any fluid in their middle ear. Then they’ll insert the tiny tube into the incision.
The tube will stay there after surgery to help drain fluid from your child’s ear. Sometimes, your healthcare provider may also recommend adenoidectomy (adenoid removal) during the same surgery if nasal drainage, nasal congestion or chronic nasal infections are also present.
After surgery, your child will go to recovery, where healthcare providers will make sure they’re OK to go home.
Recovering From Ear Tube Surgery
When you get home, your child might need to take antibiotics or use ear drops after surgery. You might also want to ask your provider if your child can take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever if they’re feeling uncomfortable.
Your child will have follow-up visits with their provider every few months to check on the tube. As they’re healing, their eardrum will close around the tube, so it shouldn’t fall out right away. Ear tubes will usually fall out on their own after about a year to 18 months — but some types stay in place longer. If your child has these tubes, their surgeon will take them out.
After getting ear tubes, your child may benefit from wearing earplugs when exposed to water, but this isn’t always the case. Talk to your provider about if your child needs them and whether getting custom ones made to fit your child’s ears makes sense.
Taking the Next Step
Seeing your child get ear infections over and over can be challenging. You just want them to feel better. Cleveland Clinic Children’s compassionate providers can help. Ear tube surgery is common and can help your child feel better. We’ll take the time to listen, answer questions and work with you to decide if this surgery is the best option for your child’s ear pain and infections.
Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic Children’s tympanostomy experts is easy. We’re here to help your child get the care they need.
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