What is ear tube?
These are small, cylinder shaped tubes with a lumen in the middle, that are inserted into a hole in the eardrum by an ENT specialist. They allow air flow to the middle ear. They are made from a variety of materials (such as metal, plastic, teflon).
There are two types of ventilation tubes:
1. For short term use
2. For long term use
Short term tubes stay in the ear drum for 6 to 12 months and they fall out on their own. Long term tubes stay in the eardrum for over 1 year. These have wider lumen as opposed to short term tubes. Even though some fall out on their own, they usually need to be removed by an ENT specialist. Your physician will decide which tube to be inserted based on your complaints, your history and the examination.
Who needs ventilation tube placement?
1. Recurrent acute otitis
2. Long lasting otitis media with effusion which does not improve by itself or medical treatment
3. Collapsed eardrum
4. Barotraumas that occur due to flying or diving
5. Patients with down syndrome or cleft-palates, who are suffering from dysfunctional eardrum or eustachian tube
How is the tube inserted in the eardrum?
Insertion is possible either with local or general anesthesia. General anesthesia is usually the preferred method for pediatric patients and for the procedures which involve tonsil or adenoid intervention at the same time. Procedure is performed under microscope with microsurgical instruments. An incision big enough to insert the tube is made in the eardrum. The fluid in the ear is aspired, if there is any; subsequently the tube is inserted in the eardrum.
When will the tube in my ear be removed?
Depending on the type of the tube, usually the short term tubes fall out on their own within 6 to 12 months. You can find out if the tube fell out or not during the periodic exams determined by your doctor. The long term tubes can be thrown out by the ear itself but especially the T-tubes require removal by a physician on an average of 2 years time. They usually do not fall out on their own.
What are the points to take into consideration when there is a tube in my ear?
During the post-insertion period, the two most important issues that need to be taken into consideration are avoiding water intrusion into the ear canal and direct traumas to the ear. Especially the water intrusion should be avoided. Because the water that gets into the ear flows through the lumen onto the middle ear and causes infection. This shows itself as inflamed ear discharge. Extra caution is of importance when you are in the sea, pool or shower. In order to protect the ear from water, you could simply use a piece of cotton with vaseline or ordinary cotton swabs which you could purchase at any pharmacy. When there is a problem, you should contact your physician immediately without waiting for your periodic visit.