Ear infections are a very common problem in children. It is estimated that as many as 80% of all children will have at least one ear infection by the time they are 3 years old. The first treatment a child is given for an ear infection is antibiotics. In most cases this will eliminate the infection. However, after the infection clears, some children are left with fluid behind the eardrum. In most instances this fluid will drain out within a few months and the child will be back to normal. Alternatively this fluid may persist. This fluid can cause a hearing loss, and it can become reinfected. When a child has persistent fluid behind the eardrum parents may notice the hearing loss, and children may fail to develop clear speech. Children may also develop recurrent infections of this fluid. They typically will develop another ear infection shortly after a course of antibiotics is completed. Children with persistent fluid behind the eardrum, or with frequent ear infections are candidates for placement of ear tubes.

Parents often agonize over whether to have tubes placed into their child's ears. Knowing what tubes do helps with this decision. When tubes are placed in the ears the fluid behind the eardrums is removed. The tubes are put in to prevent this fluid from recollecting. By removing the fluid the child's hearing is improved and the potential for future infections is significantly reduced. Tubes do not eliminate all ear infections. However, in most cases, they substantially decrease the number of infections children have. The improvement in the child's hearing abilities often leads to rapid progression of speech development.

The operation to place ear tubes in children is generally done in the operating room under general anesthesia. The whole procedure requires approximately 10 to 15 minutes of anesthetic. The risks involved with this short duration of anesthesia are minimal. A parent is generally allowed to be with their child as soon as they wake up from anesthesia. In most cases children have minimal or no pain after surgery and they resume normal activities within 24 hours.

Your pediatrician or family physician will usually manage these infections until they feel surgery may be indicated. A referral to an ear, nose and throat surgeon may be helpful in guiding this decision. The surgeons at Berks ENT Surgical Associates are all highly experienced in tonsil and adenoid surgery and can assist you in this decision.

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