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What's It Like: To get tubes placed in your ears

What's it Like: Myringotomy, or ear tube surgery, primarily is performed on children but also may be necessary for some adults
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: May 12, 2013

Why get tubes placed in your ears?

Myringotomy, or ear tube surgery, primarily is performed on children but also may be necessary for some adults.

Your pediatrician might recommend performing ear tube surgery if your child is younger than 2 and has recurring ear infections. This includes children who have between five and seven ear infections each year.

The surgery also can alleviate the impact that fluid in a child's ears can cause. For children between 2 and 4, fluid in their ears can affect their hearing. If the fluid is present for several months, it may affect a child's speech and language development. Using tubes to treat the fluid early on sometimes can prevent that.

Sometimes the Eustachian tube, the ear's natural ventilation, stops functioning or doesn't function as well as it should. This can cause complications and sometimes calls for ear tube surgery.

What happens?

To begin the surgery, children are generally placed under general anesthesia. Some doctors might use a papoose board, or a restraint device, rather than general anesthesia. In adults, the procedure usually is performed in a clinical setting, using a topical numbing cream.

If your child is placed under anesthesia, he or she will go to sleep. Once your child is still, the doctor will look in the ears and introduce tiny tubes through the ear drum, or tympanic membrane, to allow air into the middle ear.

If this is your child's second set of tubes, your doctor might recommend also performing an adenoidectomy, removing the adenoid glands that sit behind the nose above the roof of the mouth. The back of the nose is where the ear ventilates, and the adenoids sit near that opening. If the adenoids grow too large, they can obstruct that opening and cause ear infections.

The procedure, without the adenoidectomy, lasts about 10 minutes. It's a similar surgery for adults.

Does it hurt?

If your child is awake, it could be uncomfortable. There shouldn't be much soreness afterward though, regardless.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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