If you are a parent, you know the panic when your child suddenly tells you their ear hurts, they have difficulty sleeping, they keep pulling or tugging at their ears, or they cry more than usual. You check their temperature and note they are running a low fever but show no outward signs of anything being wrong. When this occurs regularly, it becomes a problem that can no longer be solved with antibiotic eardrops.
What causes the problems?
It is a fact that, by the time a child turns five years of age, he or she will have experienced at least one painful ear infection. Most will either heal on their own (viral infection) or need to be treated with antibiotics (bacterial infection).
However, in some cases, an infection on its own or combined with fluid in the middle ear may turn into a chronic problem that leads to other issues including hearing loss, behavior or speech problems, and poor performance in school. When this occurs, Dr. Cassandra Fynes refers patients to an ENT specialist for the insertion of ear tubes.
What are ear tubes?
Ear tubes resemble a tiny, empty thread spool that will allow air into the middle ear. These tubes are made of various materials and are designed in short-term and long-term types. The short-term tubes normally stay in place for six to eighteen months before falling out on their own. Long-term tubes are larger, secured by flanges in the ear drum and can fall out on their own or may need to be removed.
How common are ear tubes?
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, more than five hundred thousand ear tube surgeries are performed on children each year, making it the most common childhood surgery performed with anesthesia. Once inserted during a procedure that usually takes no more than fifteen minutes, ear tubes may reduce the risk of future ear infections, restore any hearing loss caused by middle ear fluid, improve speech and balance problems, help resolve behavior and sleep problems associated with chronic ear infections, and play a role in improving a child’s performance in school.
What happens after ear tube insertion?
After surgery, the team will monitor your child, and if no complications occur, the patient will be able to go home in about an hour or two. Your child will normally experience little or no postoperative pain, but there could be some grogginess, irritability, and/or nausea for a short period of time.
Any hearing loss that was caused by middle ear fluid buildup will immediately be resolved. Your child may return to school the very next day after surgery. A child that experienced any speech, language, learning, or balance problems may need several weeks or months to realize a full recovery.
You can anticipate the ear tubes to stay in place for six to nine months and then fall out on their own. It is important to note that even with ear tubes, your child may still experience an occasional ear infection.
To keep your children in good health throughout their formative years, make it a point to schedule them for regular examinations with Dr. Cassandra Fynes at Fynes Audiology in Mesa. Contact us online or call (480) 456-0176 for an appointment.