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The pressure in your ear never goes away. And it feels full, stuffy and uncomfortable. Aren’t adults too old for this?

Nope. Earaches aren’t just for kids. They can be pretty painful at any age. And whether it’s ear infections or trapped fluid behind your eardrum (tympanic membrane) that’s causing your pain — it’s time to get help.

Cleveland Clinic healthcare providers can help relieve your ear pain and discomfort with tympanostomy (ear tubes). We’ll insert tubes (small, hollow plastic or metal cylinders) into your eardrums to release built-up fluid and improve your hearing. With ear tubes, you’ll usually have fewer ear infections and problems with fluid buildup. And this means you’ll start to feel more like yourself again.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Ear Tube Surgery?

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Caring approach:

We take the time to get to know you and understand your lifestyle and health so we can be sure tympanostomy is the right treatment for you. We know the idea of having even minor surgery can be stressful, so our providers will answer your questions and talk with you about how this procedure can help improve your health and hearing.

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Demonstrated expertise:

Our skilled healthcare providers do hundreds of tympanostomies each year. You can have confidence in our skills and experience. You’re in expert hands here as we walk through treatment options — all designed to meet your unique needs. Meet our team.

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We're recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

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Virtual visits:

We know you have a busy schedule. That’s why we offer some appointments as virtual visits. All you need is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or computer to meet with your provider one-on-one from the comfort of home or the office.

Tympanostomy Diagnosis at Cleveland Clinic

Sometimes allergies and sinuses can cause bacteria and fluid build-up (effusion) in your middle ear. Or maybe you’ve had a cold or flu that started this cycle of ear infections. If you fly a lot, air pressure can cause fluid to stay in your ears (barotrauma or airplane ear). But no matter the cause, if you have constant problems, you might be a good candidate for a tympanostomy.

During your first visit, your provider will talk with you about your medical history, and an audiologist will likely do a basic hearing test to see if you’re having hearing problems. Then, your provider will take a look at your ear with a magnifying tool called a pneumatic otoscope. This sends a puff of air into your ear canal, which should cause your eardrum to move. If it doesn’t move, it’s a good sign you have fluid trapped behind it.

At Cleveland Clinic, your team of providers will work together to review your test results and craft a treatment plan just for you. This team could include otolaryngologists (head and neck specialists/surgeons), nurse practitioners or physician assistants and others as needed.


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Ohio, Florida and London.

What To Expect During Tympanostomy at Cleveland Clinic

Tympanostomy is a same-day surgery, so you can go home after you’re done. Before you have this surgery, your provider will talk to you about what to expect and if you’ll need to fast (stop eating) for a few hours before your appointment.

They’ll also decide if you’ll get a sedative and local anesthesia that numbs your ear or if you’ll be asleep under general anesthesia. Either way, you won’t feel any pain during the surgery. Your ear tube surgery can be done in the operating room or your provider’s office.

During tympanostomy, which takes about 15 minutes, your provider will make a small incision (cut) in your eardrum so they can drain the fluid in your middle ear. Once they do this, they’ll place ear tubes in the incision. The tubes stay in place after surgery so fluid can keep draining from your ear.

When surgery is complete, you’ll move to a recovery area. Healthcare providers make sure you’re feeling OK before you’re able to go home. Your provider may have you take antibiotics or use ear drops after surgery.

Recovering From Tympanostomy

After your tympanostomy, you’ll feel a little pain and likely some crackling and popping. An over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever can help. And your provider might have you use antibiotic eardrops to prevent infection. You may need to wear earplugs for a little while when you take a bath, shower or swim. We can help you order custom-fitted ones if you want.

You’ll also have follow-up visits with your provider every few months to check on the tubes. As you heal, your eardrum will close around the tube so it shouldn’t fall out right away. Ear tubes usually fall out on their own after about a year to 18 months. Some types of ear tubes stay in place longer. If you have these tubes, your provider will remove them during one of your follow-up visits.

Taking the Next Step

Constant earaches and fullness — not to mention the snap, crackle and pop of fluid trapped in your ear — can make you miserable and cause hearing problems. Even if you’re all grown up. You can get relief with a tympanostomy and ear tubes that drain the trapped fluid. Our skilled, compassionate providers are here to walk you through every step of this simple surgery and stay with you through recovery to make sure you’re hearing clearly again — without pain.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s tympanostomy experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.

Make an Appointment

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s tympanostomy experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.

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