Middle ear infections are extremely common in children. In fact, five in six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday, and ear infections are the most common reason parents take their children to the doctor, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
Why Do Children Get So Many Ear Infections?
Children are especially prone to ear infections because their Eustachian tubes – which are responsible for draining fluid and equalizing pressure in the ears – are much shorter and more horizontal than adults’, meaning fluid is more likely to get trapped. In addition, children frequently pick up viruses from school and daycare, which cause inflammation in the ears.
What Are Ear Tubes?
Ear tubes are tiny tubes made of metal or plastic that are surgically implanted in the eardrum to help fluids drain. During surgery, a small hole is made in the eardrum, and the tube is inserted. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and is done in 10 to 15 minutes. The ear tubes usually fall out on their own as the eardrum heals.
Does My Child Need Ear Tubes?
Your child’s pediatrician will make the best recommendation for your child’s unique needs. They usually choose to recommend ear tubes based on the following three signs.
The Infections Keep Returning
For a child’s first few ear infections, the doctor may decide to take a wait-and-see approach or prescribe antibiotics. However, if these methods don’t clear the infection and keep it away, they may want to try a different approach. If ear infections continue to come back after treatment or never clear up in the first place, even with a low-dose, long-term antibiotic, the physician will likely recommend ear tubes to prevent antibiotic resistance.
There Are Multiple Infections
It is quite common for children to have “stacked” bacterial or viral ear infections. This means that a second ear infection develops before the first has finished clearing. This can lead to significant fluid buildup, which is both uncomfortable and can lead to hearing loss. For multiple infections, ear tubes are a good choice.
Your Child Has Hearing Loss or a Speech Delay
Ear infections and fluid buildup can cause some level of hearing loss, which can last for a few days or a few months. If your child has in the ears for months on end that is causing loss of hearing and speech-language developmental delays, ear tubes are an appropriate intervention.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call CENTA Medical Group today.