The two most common reasons why you would need tubes are because of recurrent ear infections or if fluid has built up in your ears causing hearing loss. Both reasons are due to a vacuum forming in the middle ear from Eustachian tube dysfunction. The Eustachian tube extends from the middle ear to behind the nose. A number of reasons may lead to Eustachian tube problems ranging from immaturity to large adenoids. The Eustachian tube, amongst, other things equalizes pressure across the ear drum so the pressure in the middle ear is equal to the outside ambient pressure. If the pressure does not get equalized, a vacuum forms because the cells that line the middle ear absorb gas. The vacuum pulls in fluid from the tissue surrounding the middle ear. The middle ear fills up with fluid possible causing hearing loss and/or acting like a culture medium for bacteria.
A small incision is made in the eardrum. The doctor then takes a suction instrument and very carefully removes the fluid buildup in your ear. A tiny tube is then placed in the incision to prevent fluid from building up again. The purpose of the tube is to equalize pressure across the ear drum; thereby preventing a vacuum forming in the ear. The tube usually falls out on its own. It can stay in for six months to one year. If it does not fall out on its own you may need to have it surgically removed. You will need to have a follow-up visit with your ENT doctor to make sure the tubes are still in place and still functioning properly.
You will be tired after surgery due to the use of anesthesia. This should subside the day after surgery. Generally the recovery period for this surgery is one to two days.The presence of the tube should not cause pain after the first day. If pain persists after the first day, please contact our office. Fever is unusual after ear surgery, but a low-grade temperature is common after anesthesia. This can usually be controlled with Tylenol. If the fever continues for more than three days or is not controlled with Tylenol please contact our office. If tubes have been placed in addition to an adenoidectomy you may have pain from your throat referred to your ear. This can last up to one week following surgery. Chewing gum can help alleviate this pain.
You will have a follow-up appointment two weeks following surgery with an audiogram to make sure the tubes are in place and functioning properly.
It is important that water or dirt not get through the tubes into the middle ear space and cause an ear infection while the tubes are in place. Take extra precautions while bathing and swimming. Ears may be protected by fitted earplugs and custom-made ear molds which can be purchased in our Audiology department. A cotton ball with a small amount of petroleum jelly can be used until ear plugs can be purchased.
Occasionally you may have a small amount of drainage present in the ear canal that comes through the tube. This is fairly normal. If the drainage has an odor or color or if it is accompanied by a fever, please call our office.