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QA56: Does my child need ear tubes (also known as ventilation tubes, myringotomy tubes, PETs, and others)? When might a child need tubes placed?

Myringotomy tubes (“ear tubes”) are small tubes that are inserted into a child’s ear drum by an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician during a brief surgical procedure to ventilate the inner ear. Most parents are aware of the use of myringotomy tubes being used to prevent inner ear infections. Often we are asked by parents “how many infections does my child need before they need tubes?” This question is difficult to answer because there are many factors that are involved in this decision such as the child’s age (as children grow they tend to get fewer ear infections), the time of the year (children get most of their ear infections in the winter), and the presence of hearing loss or speech delay. Ventilating the inner ear can improve hearing in children who have conductive hearing loss. If you feel that your child has had frequent ear infections or are concerned about their hearing or speech feel free to address it with your provider during your next office visit. To learn more about myringotomy tubes click here. If you have a child who does not have ear tubes and has had 3 or more ear infections in the past year contact Dr. Reynolds to learn possible options. If xylitol is found to prevent ear infections it may lessen the number of children who need to undergo myringotomy tube placement. If you are interested in learning more about xylitol, click here. – Jason Reynolds, MD/PhD

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