Ear infections are a common malady affecting children as they grow. These infections are typically treated with antibiotics and clear quickly. If, however, your child's ear infections are frequent, your pediatrician may recommend inserting tubes. These small tubes measure a mere 1/20 of an inch in diameter and are placed in the ear canal to promote airflow and prevent fluid buildup. The tubes painlessly fall out on their own in eight to twelve months. Historically, doctors enjoyed much autonomy in deciding when a child needs tubes. In 2013, the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO) developed guidelines to help doctors and parents more accurately determine which children need ear tubes.
When Your Child Needs Ear Tubes
According to the AAO, ear tubes are effective in children between six months and twelve years of age only when their infections are accompanied by fluid in the ear. Tubes are recommended only if a single infection lingers more than three months or when ear infections return frequently. Tubes are also recommended in cases where temporary hearing problems are likely to cause developmental delays, such as in autistic children or those with Down syndrome. Those who have already suffered permanent hearing loss are also ear tube candidates. If your child does not suffer from a developmental disorder or does not experience fluid buildup, tubes are not recommended.
What You Should Know
When deciding whether or not to have tubes placed in your child's ears, be sure to ignore common myths about the practice. Many parents believe, for example, that children with ear tubes are at a higher risk of getting water in their ears when swimming or bathing. This is untrue, however, unless the child is underwater at a depth of six feet or more. At shallower depths the water pressure is not strong enough to force water into the tube. Children are unable to feel properly placed tubes and their insertion requires only light anesthesia for approximately 15 minutes. The procedure is a safe and simple one with a 90% success rate in children of all ages.