Ear Tubes :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Ear Tubes (Myringotomy Tubes)

About one in every three children will be treated for an ear infection before they turn three years old. It is the most common reason for kids to see their doctor! About one in every fifteen kids will get ear tubes by age three. At Nationwide Children’s Hospital, we treat thousands of children with ear infections each year.

Why does my child need ear tubes?

If your child has recurring ear infections, he or she may be recommended for ear tube surgery by their pediatrician. Children can experience pain, hearing difficulties and speech delay if recurring ear infections are not treated.

What are ear tubes?

Ear tubes (also called myringotomy tubes or tympanostomy tubes) are very small tubes that are surgically placed in your child’s eardrum by a pediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon to help treat ear infections. The purpose of the tube is to provide ventilation to the middle ear and prevent fluid buildup. The tubes will also provide access for antibiotic ear drops to reach the middle ear if another ear infection occurs.

What should I expect on the day of ear tube surgery?

Your child will have surgery at the Outpatient Surgery Center at the main hospital or the Westerville Surgery Center and will last 10 to 15 minutes.

Before and after surgery: Our pediatric nurses will prepare your child for surgery, assist the pediatric ENT surgeon during surgery, and care for your child after ear tube surgery.

Anesthesiology: Your child will be placed under general anesthesia by a pediatric anesthesiologist. Our subspecialty-trained pediatric anesthesiologists regularly provide pediatric anesthesiology services for patients undergoing surgical procedures.

Surgery: A pediatric ENT surgeon will insert an ear speculum, make a small incision in the ear drum, and drain any fluid from the middle ear. The surgeon will then insert the ear tube to ventilate the middle ear. After surgery, your surgeon may recommend antibiotic ear drops for your child’s ears.

Watch our video of Complete Ear Tube Surgery to see a family’s perspective.

What should I do for my child after ear tube surgery?

You and your child should be able to return home within one to two hours following ear tube surgery. Children usually have little pain or other symptoms following the procedure. Your doctor will examine your child’s ear tubes every six months to make sure the tubes are in place.

Ear tubes will fall out on their own after 12 to 36 months. As children grow older, they have longer and wider Eustachian tubes, which naturally allow better drainage of fluids from the ear in addition to the maturation of their immune systems.

Ear plugs are not required for bathing or swimming in bathtubs or chlorinated pools, but are recommended if your child swims in lakes or oceans.

For more information, please read our Helping Hand™ on Ear Infections (Otitis Media).

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Nationwide Children's Hospital
700 Children's Drive Columbus, Ohio 43205 614.722.2000