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Ear Tubes

What Are Ear Tubes?

Ear tubes are recommended when an individual suffers repeated ear infections of the middle ear, loses hearing due to fluid in the middle ear, or is off-balance due to fluid in the middle ear. When in place, ear tubes are effective at holding open an incision in the eardrum, allowing drainage of the affected middle ears and preventing the accumulation of fluid and infection in the middle ear space. This helps reduce the risk for ear infection in the future, restores hearing, improves balance, resolves speech problems, and improves sleep and behavior issues brought on by chronic ear infections.

While an occasional viral ear infection will resolve without treatment and bacterial infections are often treated and cured with antibiotics, ear infections aren’t always easy to overcome. When the infections continue to arise time and again, more aggressive action must be taken in order to prevent an array of potential health and hearing problems. In many cases, that action is placing ear tubes in the ears of the affected individual.

Why Consider Ear Tubes?

Reasons a child or adult may need ear tubes include the following:

  • Frequent middle ear infection. Beneath the eardrum, there is an open area (the middle ear) that is home to tiny vibrating ear bones. When a bacterial or viral infection settles in there, the result is sudden inflammation and pain.

  • Hearing loss related to middle ear fluid. Frequent middle ear infections, allergies and other conditions can cause fluid to form and stay in the middle ear for a prolonged period. Eventually, this fluid can result in hearing loss.

  • Dizziness related to middle ear fluid. Fluid in the ear can cause dizziness and is a readily treatable cause of dizziness. In young children, this dizziness may appear as lack of coordination.

  • Tinnitus related to middle ear fluid. Fluid in the ear can cause tinnitus, or extra sounds in the ears. This can sound like your pulse, or like ringing or a seashell. This is a treatable cause of tinnitus.

What to Expect with Ear Tube Placement

Prior to receiving ear tubes, the affected individual undergoes tests to ensure the tubes will effectively treat his or her symptoms. Should the individual no longer respond properly to antibiotics or be at risk for hearing loss due to chronic ear infections, ear tubes are a good option. Tubes are very efficient at draining fluid from the middle ear, and may be the only way to completely remove fluid that has been present in the middle ear for many months.

Installing ear tubes is a relatively simple procedure that normally takes less than half an hour. During the procedure, a small incision is made in the eardrum by the surgeon with a tiny scalpel. The surgeon then locates and removes any fluid residing in the inner ear using a suction device. Once the fluid is removed, the ear tube is inserted into the hole made by the surgeon.

While the ear tube will stay in the patient’s ear for at least several months, the patient will typically regain any lost hearing due to fluid build-up immediately and can return to activities of daily living within 24 hours. Over the course of time, the ear tube normally falls out without assistance and the surgical hole made by the surgeon closes on its own. Should the ear tubes fall out earlier than that, new tubes may need to be installed to ensure the treatment provides long-term benefits. In extreme cases of frequent fluid in the middle ear, the otolaryngologist may additionally encourage the removal of adenoid tissue if it is enlarged, as this can increase the success rate of ear tubes.

Why Temple Health for Ear Tubes?

In the event an individual’s recurrent ear infection causes significant speech or hearing issues, the multidisciplinary team at Temple Head & Neck Institute is ready to help.

Leading the region and nation in ear tubes and other associated services, the specialists at the Temple Head & Neck Institute give patients access to the most advanced diagnostic and therapeutic methods as recommended by current research.

Temple Health’s multidisciplinary team of specialists collaborates to manage ear infections and any potential hearing loss that accompanies it. Because of our understanding of the potential life-long problems associated with these issues, our team provides a tailored approach to treatment for each patient.

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