Ear Tube Q & A

Q. What are myringotomy tubes?

A. Myringotomy tubes are prosthetic devices which maintain a tiny opening in the ear drum.  They prevent the development of abnormal pressure changes behind the ear drum, as such pressure changes cause fluid to accumulate leading to infection and/or hearing impairment.

Q. Do tubes really work?

A. Ear tubes are generally effective in limiting the number and severity of ear infections.  Many children are totally free of ear infections while the tubes are in place.  When infections do occur, they are usually not accompanied by the high fevers and discomfort seen in middle ear infections.

Q. How do I care for the tubes?

A. Simply keep water out of the ear while tubes are in place as this prevents water from going through the tubes and promoting infection.

Q. How/When do the tubes come out?

A. After a period of approximately 6-9 months (although some types of tubes can stay in position well over a year) the ear drum will heal and push the tube out into the ear canal.  The tube will either fall out of the canal (often unnoticed) or sit in the ear canal embedded in wax.  In this case, it can usually be removed during a routine office visit.

Q. What are the risks?

A. There is a risk associated with the general anesthesia, although it is small.  Sometimes the tubes do not come out on their own and your child may have to have another surgical procedure to remove them.  Other times, the tubes may leave a small hole in the ear drum when they extrude, and this also would require a separate surgical procedure for repair.  In rare instances, there is a foreign body reaction to the ear tubes and they must be removed.