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Ear Tube Insertion for Children

Children with ongoing ear infections may benefit from this outpatient procedure


Eardrums are thin pieces of tissue deep in your child’s ears. The space behind each eardrum is called the middle ear. It is connected to the nasal cavity at the back of the throat by a tube called the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube allows air to fill this space and fluid to drain from the middle ear.

However sometimes this channel doesn’t work well. The pediatric ear, nose and throat team at Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital says allergies, infections (caused by colds), and enlarged adenoids all can cause fluid to build up behind the eardrums. That can cause pain and hearing loss for kids, but ear tubes can help.

During ear tube insertion, a pediatric otolaryngologist (also known as a pediatric ear, nose and throat – ENT – specialist) places a tiny tube into the eardrum to let fluid leave the middle ear. It also lets air enter the middle ear through the eardrum. By the time these tubes come out, the body’s natural passageway from the middle ear to the back of the nose may be working better.

Why do some children need ear tubes?

Ear tube insertion is very common in children. Your child may need an ear tube insertion if he or she:

  • Has had fluid in the ears for three or more months
  • Has had a long-running ear infection
  • Gets ear infections often
  • Has an abnormal shape to his or her ears or mouth
  • Has had certain ear injuries

What are the risks of an ear tube insertion for a child?

Possible risks include:

  • Problems from the anesthesia, such as breathing trouble or reaction to medicines
  • Scarring of the eardrum
  • Hearing loss
  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Your child may have other risks, depending on his or her specific health condition.

What happens during an ear tube insertion for a child?

A pediatric otolaryngologist surgically inserts ear tubes, typically in an outpatient procedure. The entire process typically takes less than 15 minutes. After surgery, your child will be observed in the recovery room. In most cases, your child will be discharged to go home within a few hours.

Is your child having trouble with ear infections? Visit to learn more about how a pediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist from Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital can help.

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