Ear Tubes: Should You or Shouldn't You?

Children between the ages of six months to two years of age commonly get middle ear infections also known as otitis media. These infections involve the space on the inner side of the eardrum and can occur initially as a result of a cold or upper respiratory infection.

When this area is infected, it fills up with fluid which pushes upon the eardrum or tympanic membrane. Infections can be either bacterial or viral. Usually viral infections do not respond to antibiotics, and with time, they will usually resolve on their own.

If the infection is bacterial, the middle ear space will fill up with fluid, putting pressure on the eardrum, thus causing pain. During this period of infection, the child may have a temporary loss of hearing, but usually it is not permanent, unless there is structural damage.

Doctors will suggest ear tubes for children under these circumstances:
• If a child has had fluid behind the eardrum in both ears for more than 3 months and has significant hearing loss in both ears.
• If a child has repeat ear infections and antibiotics aren’t working

A specialist called an otolaryngologist places the tubes through a small surgical opening made in the eardrum (myringotomy or tympanostomy). The child is unconscious under general anesthesia for this surgery.

Tubes can help with ear infections because they:
• Allow air to enter the middle ear
• Allow fluid to flow out of the middle ear through the tube into the ear canal.
• Clear fluid from the middle ear and restore hearing.
• Prevent future buildup of fluid in the middle ear while they are in place.
• Decrease the feeling of pressure in the ears, which reduces pain.

Tubes normally remain in the ears for 6 to 12 months. They often fall out on their own. If the tubes don't fall out on their own, surgery may be required to remove them. After the tubes are out, the child should be watched for signs of ear infection or fluid behind the eardrum.

How Well Do Tubes Work?
Ear tubes often restore hearing. While the tubes are in place, they often prevent buildup of pressure and fluid in the middle ear. And they can reduce pain.
Tubes may keep ear infections from recurring while the tubes are in place. But infections may return after the tubes are gone.

Risks
Minor complications occur in up to half of the children who have tubes inserted. Usual complications include:
• A thickening of the eardrum over time. These changes in the eardrum may affect hearing in a very small number of children.
• Discharge of pus (otorrhea) from the ear. This is common and can become an ongoing problem in some children.

Other possible complications:
• The tube may become blocked, allowing ear fluid and infections to return.
• The tube may slip out of place, possibly falling into the middle ear (rare).
• Tissue may form behind the eardrum (cholesteatoma). This is also rare.

In addition, tubes may scar the eardrum which may then lead to minor hearing loss.

(Information above compiled from Web MD and Dr. Leia Melead)

Now, I would like to add my two cents:
There are other avenues that can be pursued that are much less invasive than antibiotics and ear tube surgery. (Putting a baby under general anesthetic if it isn’t necessary?) The goal is to build up your child's immune system and get rid of the infection once and for all.

You might want to try the elimination of highly allergenic foods such as wheat, corn, milk, and soy from your child’s diet.  Dairy can be very mucous forming.  Also, avoid sugar.

Other factors that can contribute to ear infections include taking the bottle to bed and second hand tobacco smoke.

FACT: There are 4000 or more chemicals in cigarette smoke, and research shows that secondhand smoke increases a child's risk of developing ear and respiratory infections, asthma, cancer and sudden infant death syndrome.

I would also suggest the addition of certain high quality supplements. In the fourteen years I have been with my company I have seen many children’s ear infection clear up completely just by making some of the lifestyle changes noted above and adding the following nutrients:

Vitamin C, garlic, and probiotics for the infection

Multivitamin/mineral supplement and a daily protein drink to maintain good health.

As always, I can’t promise it is going to be the answer for your child, but these are all positive, healthy steps...and what if it does work?

Moms, if you have had an experience with ear tubes, please share it with us in the comments section.  I'd love to hear from you!


This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Health By Design disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Marti Gilchrist Owner Health By Design

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