How to Know When Ear-Tube Surgery Is the Best Option


An ear infection can be a miserable experience for a child (and parents). Doctors typically prescribe antibiotics to clear up the painful infection and usually this takes care of the problem. For children with recurring ear infections, medical professionals typically recommend ear-tube surgery. New guidelines indicate this may not be the best option.

Hearing damage
Hearing experts have been concerned about the damage ear infections can cause. They know that hearing problems can affect children academically, because they struggle to listen, focus and participate in classroom learning experiences.

Concerns about anesthesia
Every year, more than 665,000 children under five years old have tubes surgically put into their ears, a procedure that typically requires the use of anesthesia. But many health professionals are concerned about the possible impact of anesthesia on children at a young age, especially for those who have repeated ear-tube surgeries. Recent studies indicate these children can have problems with short-term memory loss when they’re older.

Ear-tube guidelines
Over the years, doctors have recommended tubes for children who experience three to four infections a year, regardless of whether or not they also have fluid in the middle ear.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation recently offered new treatment guidelines:

  • Surgery recommendation – Only for children who have an ear infection and middle-ear fluid in at least one ear.
  • Monitor conditions – Some children continually have fluid in the middle ear, but don’t have ear infections. In the past, doctors put in ear tubes to drain them. Now they are advised to watch the child’s condition over at least three months to determine whether the fluid is absorbed, or develops into an infection.

Researchers believe this approach will reduce the number of unnecessary ear-tube surgeries.

Learn more about new guidelines that suggest ear tubes aren’t necessary in all cases.