Ear infections are a rite of passage for many young children. If your child has recurrent ear infections, however, it may be time to consider ear tubes.
A Boynton Beach sinus and allergy doctor can tell you more about ear tubes and how they can help your little one kick the ear infections for good – or at least drastically reduce them.
What Are Ear Tubes?
Tympanostomy tubes – also known as ear tubes – are tiny, hollow plastic tubes inserted into the eardrum through a small surgical opening. The surgery itself is called a myringotomy or tympanostomy.
Learn more about ear tube surgery.
Ear tube surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in childhood. In fact, more than 700,000 children undergo the procedure each year.
In most cases, the surgery is performed under general anesthesia. Although surgery is not without risks, the risk of complications with myringotomy is extremely low.
Most children do quite well and recover completely by the following day. In many cases, the tubes fall out on their own. In others, it may be necessary to remove the tubes surgically.
How Do I Know If My Child Needs Ear Tubes?
Although most children will experience at least one ear infection during childhood, recurrent ear infections can create numerous problems.
- Bacterial Resistance: Antibiotics are one of the first lines of defense when it comes to managing ear infections. The problem with this approach in a child with repeat ear infections is the danger of inducing bacterial resistance.
- Hearing Loss: Another problem with untreated, recurrent ear infections is the very real danger of permanent hearing loss.Children who can’t hear properly can suffer academically and may develop speech delays. Placing tympanostomy tubes clears the fluid from the middle ear, allowing the child to hear clearly.
- Pain: Fluid buildup in the middle ear can also cause problems with balance, as well as significant pain. Although ear tubes probably won’t prevent all future ear infections, they usually reduce the occurrence significantly.
In some cases, a child may need ear tubes in combination with other treatment, such as removing the child’s tonsils or adenoids – procedures known as a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. In many cases, all three procedures can be performed at the same time.
What about a Wait-and-See Approach?
If you’re not totally sold on the idea of your child undergoing a surgical procedure, you might consider waiting a while to see if your child outgrows his or her ear infections.
When children are very young, the Eustachian tube, which runs from the pharynx to the cavity of the middle ear, is angled and much shorter. As a child ages, the tube slowly becomes more vertical.
Over time, most children outgrow ear infections. In most cases, doctors see a marked decline in ear infections in children age six and older.
If your child is on the borderline of outgrowing his or her recurrent ear infections, a little bit of time may be just what you need.
Also, research shows that about 90 percent of middle ear infections will resolve on their own without medication. Although this doesn’t happen with every ear infection, a wait-and-see approach might work in many cases.
Contact a Boynton Beach ENT Specialist about Your Child’s Ear Infections
Whether you want to pursue surgery, or you’re more comfortable with alternative treatments, it’s important to see an ENT specialist about your child’s recurrent ear infections. Just because your child doesn’t need ear tubes does not mean you should ignore the problem.
Your Boynton Beach ENT Specialist can keep an eye on your child’s health and help you make smart decisions about how to treat your child’s ear infections.