Ear tubes are tiny hoses surgically inserted into the eardrum to drain accumulated ear fluid following recurrent ear infections. This insertion is a simple and safe outpatient operation done under general anesthesia. When indicated, the surgeon will perform it in conjunction with adenoid removal [See: Adenoids].
This operation has been overprescribed, however, and for many years it was almost fashionable to have tubes in the ear. But in fact, they should be inserted only when multiple ear infections have caused significant hearing loss, as demonstrated by a hearing test [See: Hearing Screening].
When indicated, the operation is very efficient. Hearing improves almost the same day, and the infections become much less frequent. If your child does fit the criteria for ear-tube placement, I recommend that you don’t hesitate. The best time for the surgery is just before the winter, when ear infections are most prevalent.
There is a limitation that you should be aware of: As wonderful as these little tubes are, they only buy temporary relief. After six months or so, they become blocked and fall out. The procedure may then have to be repeated once or even several times until your child outgrows the ear infection stage at six to eight years of age.