What are Ear Tubes

Ear Tubes also called:

PE Tubes or Pressure Equalization Tubes, Ventilation Tubes or Myringotomy Tubes are very small metal, Teflon or plastic cylinders. They are used mostly for insertion in the ear drum of children who repeatedly develop ear infections or otitis media.

There are two basic types of ear tubes. Short Term and Long Term

Short term: These are smaller in size and will stay in for six months to one year before falling out.

Long term: These are larger and they have flanges that help to secure the tube in place.

They fall out after a longer period than the short term or may be removed by the surgeon.

Annually there are over 500,000 ear tubes insertion or myringotomy procedures performed on children usually around the ages of 1 – 3 years old. There are occasions that a teenager or an adult may need an ear tube insertion. Example: In the case of a patient having an hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment, or having a severe ear infection as a result of a brain infection or meningitis.

Ear tube placements are usually recommended by the pediatrician to parents whose children are repeatedly having ear infections. These ear infections are sometimes accompanied with pain, fever, discomfort and irritability. Initially the child may be treated with antibiotics and the symptoms will be resolved. However after ongoing or repeated episodes of ear infections, tube insertion or myringotomy will be recommended.

Signs and Symptoms of Otitis Media.

Pulling or rubbing of the ears due to pain and middle ear pressure.


Fluid leaking from the ear.

Hearing problems.

Difficulty sleeping.

Change in eating habits.

Advantages of a Tube Insertion Procedure are:

This procedure will allow air to enter and ventilate and stabilize the pressure in the middle ear.

It will allow the fluid to flow out of the ear.

Reduction of repeated ear infections.

Restoration of hearing loss which was due to the build up fluid behind the child’s ear drum.

The improved hearing will result in improved speech and learning.

The removal of the fluid and the pressure behind the child’s eardrum will improve any balance problem the child may be having. This is because the ear has much to do with equilibrium or balance.

The child will be better behaved, sleep better and be more relaxed after the pain and discomfort of the infection is resolved.

The insertion of an ear tube or a myringotomy as the procedure is called, is a quick and simple procedure done by an otolaryngologist or Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon.

The actual procedure takes about 15-20 minutes and it is usually a Bilateral Myringotomy. It is done in a hospital since the child is given general anesthesia in order to tolerate the procedure. The child is sent home the same day after a recovery period in the hospital with doctor’s instructions specific for your child and prescription for antibiotics.

So How Do you Prevent Your Child From Getting a Middle Ear Infection

According to Web MD the following recommendations may prevent your child from getting a middle ear infection.

Not smoking. Ear infections are more common in children who are around cigarette smoke in the home. Even fumes from tobacco smoke on your hair and clothes can affect the child.

Breast-feeding your baby. There is some evidence that breast-feeding helps reduce the risk of ear infections, especially if ear infections run in the family. If you bottle feed your baby, don’t let your baby drink a bottle while he or she is lying down.

Washing your hands often. Hand-washing stops infection from spreading by killing germs.

Having your child immunized. Current immunizations don’t specifically prevent ear infections. However, they can prevent illnesses, such as Haemophilus influenza (Hib) and flu (influenza) that may lead to ear infections. Have your child immunized at the ages suggested by national guidelines. For more information, see the topic immunizations.

Having your child immunized with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine may help reduce the risk of rear infection.

Taking your child to a smaller child care center. Fewer children means less contact with bacteria and viruses. Children in child care settings can easily spread germs to each other. Try to limit the use of any group child care.

Not giving your baby a pacifier. Try to wean your child from his or her pacifier before about 6 months of age. Babies who use pacifiers after 12 months of age are more likely to develop ear infections.

Prevention would be the key to avoiding your child getting an ear infection.

However if your child should develop ear infections that keeps re-occurring, then ear tubes would be a wise choice.