About Ear Tubes

Ear tubes are tiny cylinders placed through the eardrum to allow air into the middle ear. They are most common in children but work in people of all ages.  Some other names for ear tubes are myringotomy tubes, pressure equalization tubes tympanostomy tubes, and ventilation tubes.

These tubes are used for people who have chronic ear infections.

Why Use Ear Tubes?

Ear tubes are mostly used to give long term ventilation and allow drainage to the middle ears that are affected by frequent infections, persistent fluid buildup, or chronic middle ear infections.

Normal Ear Ventilation

Ventilating your middle ear is usually accomplished with the use of Eustachian tubes. These are narrow tubes that expand from each middle ear to high in the back of your throat.  The end that connects to your throat opens and closes to regulate air pressure in your middle ear, drain secretions, and refresh air in the ears.

Ventilation Using Ear Tubes

Ear tubes equalize pressure in your ear with air pressure outside your body, and allow for drainage. They are most commonly used in children with one of the following conditions:

  • Hearing loss: often a result when the middle ear infection is trapped fluid. It can lead to communication problems, poor school performance, speech development delays, and communication problems.
  • Chronic middle ear infections: are long-term infections of the middle ear that don’t improve with antibiotic treatment.
  • Fluid trapped behind the eardrum: results in fluid buildup and inflammation in the middle ear with viral or bacterial infection. This occurs due to persistent fluid buildup even after an ear infection has cleared up.  It could also occur due to noninfectious blockage in the Eustachian tubes or dysfunction.
  • Middle ear infections: ear tubes may be able to help prevent consistent ear infections
  • Chronic suppurative otitis media: a persistent ear infection that may result in tearing or perforation of the eardrum

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