Ear infections are not uncommon among young children, occurring most often between the ages of 6 months and two years when children are growing rapidly and immune systems are still developing. Some children are more prone than others due to genetics or environmental factors, such as chronic exposure to secondhand smoke.
Most ear infections are relatively easy to treat with medication; however, some children experience infections that occur very frequently or that are difficult to treat. When ear infections occur over and over again, they can cause delays in speech or even hearing loss due to scarring of the ear’s inner tissues. Others may have persistent fluid behind the eardrum that does not easily drain and which can also cause loss of hearing. When these chronic and persistent conditions occur, ear surgery is often the best option.
Ear tube surgery involves the placement of tiny hollow cylinders, or tubes, into the eardrum through a tiny incision in a procedure known as a “tympanostomy” or “myingotomy.” The tube helps fluid drain from behind the ear and allows air to enter, reducing painful pressure and improving hearing. By allowing the fluid to drain properly and maintain a healthy air pressure ratio within the ear, the number of subsequent infections is normally reduced.
Once implanted, the tubes will remain in place for about six months to a year, after which time they usually will fall out on their own without the need for surgical removal. Tubes that do not fall out on their own can be easily removed by your doctor. Although the vast majority of patients will require tubes only once, some children who continue to experience frequent infections may require the tubes to be replaced. Often, the adenoids are also removed since they frequently harbor bacteria that can cause ear infections to occur.
The placement of ear tubes is performed under anesthesia as an outpatient procedure. Recovery is quick, with patients resuming normal activity soon after the procedure. While tubes are in place, care must be taken not to allow water to get into the ear while bathing, showering or swimming to prevent germs from entering and causing infection. In some cases, earplugs may be used to help prevent water from entering the ear canal, but earplugs should only be used when approved by the treating physician.
Follow-up visits are also important to ensure the inner ear heals properly and in determining when normal showering and bathing routines may resume. Regular follow-up visits can also help the ENT doctor determine if tubes need to be surgically removed or if they will fall out on their own over time as well as help monitor for recurring infections that may be treated with antibiotics.
If your child has had frequent ear infections – typically 4-6 in one year, if they’ve had fluid behind one ear for more than six months or both ears for more than three months, if they’ve had persistent and chronic earaches or if they’ve exhibited any signs of loss of hearing, then having their ears examined by an experienced otolaryngologist is critical to ensure they don’t develop permanent hearing loss or other chronic conditions. At Jacksonville ENT Surgery Center, we provide state-of-the-art care to help kids stay healthy and happy.
As a board-certified otolaryngologist, Dr. Greene brings a deep understanding and years of experience to the Jacksonville ENT Surgery Center. Committed to providing patients with compassionate and skilled care, Dr. Charles Greene earned his bachelor of science degree in biological sciences from the University of California, Irvine and both an M.D. and a PhD in physiology and biophysics at the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program. The Jacksonville ENT Surgery Center is conveniently located at 11512 Lake Mead Avenue, Suites 531 and 536, in Jacksonville, Fla. To make an appointment, call (904) 419-2054 today.