Ear infections are extremely common in children and nearly every child develops at least one infection by the age of five. These infections are not limited to children and can affect adults as well. Sometimes the ear infections do not resolve and become a chronic problem leading to other issues such as hearing loss or behavior, and speech problems.
If a chronic ear infection is identified, we typically have the patient undergo hearing testing by our Audiology Staff. This helps to identify the presence of any hearing abnormalities.
In these cases, insertion of an ear tube by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat surgeon) may be considered.
Ear tubes are tiny cylinders, of various specialized materials, placed through the ear drum (tympanic membrane) to allow air into the middle ear. Most tubes stay in place for three months to two years before falling out on their own.
Inserting ear tubes is an outpatient surgical procedure done in the hospital, under a general anesthetic for children and usually in the office for adults. Our patients usually go home the same day and follow up in the office two weeks later.
The primary benefit of ear tubes is reducing the severity and frequency of ear infections. If chronic fluid is present causing a hearing loss, hearing may improve, which is important for learning and speech development in children.
The risks of the procedure include ear discharge in about 1 in 20 children. This is not usually serious or painful and antibiotic medicine or ear drops may be prescribed. Occasionally, the discharge persists and the ear tube needs to be taken out. Rarely, a small hole persists in the eardrum after the ear tube has come out. A small operation can fix this should it occur.
In some cases antibiotics will not resolve chronic tonsil infections in children and adults. In other cases, one may have enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids that can cause loud snoring, upper airway obstruction, and other sleep disorders. The best treatment for these conditions may be removal or reduction of the tonsils and/ or adenoids.
The procedure takes place at one of our hospitals. Most children and adults are able to go home the day of the surgery.
The primary benefit of a tonsillectomy is a reduction in the severity and frequency of tonsil infections. If the operation is being performed for overgrown tonsils and/or adenoids, snoring can be lessened which may lead to better sleeping and breathing. Removal of the adenoids can also improve nasal breathing in some patients.
The risks of a tonsillectomy include bleeding and infection. Throat pain is common after this operation, which will require a prescription for pain medication and a soft food diet during the recovery period. If the adenoids are removed, scarring in the can occur.