Ear Tubes: How Do They Treat Ear Infections?

Ear infections are one of the most common childhood illnesses. Children between 6 months and 2 years of age are the most likely to get ear infections, but children and adults of any age can experience them. While occasional ear infections are completely normal in children and are rarely something to worry about, recurring, chronic, or very painful ear infections can require additional attention.

Why Do Ear Infections Occur?

The Eustachian tubes are located in the middle ear, and they run from there up to the back of the throat. These tubes are responsible for regulating air pressure within the ear and draining fluid from the ear. Ear infections occur when there is a problem with the Eustachian tubes, usually swelling, excess fluid buildup, or poor drainage are to blame. Any of these issues can arise at any time, but they are more likely to occur when another illness, such as a cold or allergies, causes congestion that leads to blockage within the Eustachian tubes.

Children’s Eustachian tubes are narrower and more horizontal than those of adults, which is why they are more likely to experience drainage issues, swelling, and fluid buildup. When fluid cannot drain properly through the Eustachian tubes, bacteria can grow into the built-up fluid, causing pain, infection, and inner ear pressure.

How Are Ear Infections Treated with Ear Tubes?

Ear tubes are a common solution for chronic and painful ear infections, particularly in kids. During a procedure to put in ear tubes, a doctor will make a tiny incision in the eardrum, remove any fluid buildup, and then insert a small plastic tube to keep the incision open. Ear tubes are meant to help pressurize the inner ear and minimize fluid buildup, recurring ear infections, and painful ear pressure. Most ear tubes will work their way out of the ears naturally, within 6 months to a few years, and they will usually just fall out on their own. Since most kids experience fewer ear infections as they get older, there usually isn’t a need to redo the ear tube surgery.

How Do I Know if My Child Needs Ear Tubes?

If your child experiences frequent ear infections, your doctor may suggest ear tubes. Or if your child has incredibly painful ear infections, ear tubes might be a good option for reducing that painful inner ear pressure. Additionally, if your child is experiencing hearing loss or speech development problems, they may be a good candidate for ear tubes. Talk to your pediatrician or set up an appointment with an NCHS pediatrician to learn more about ear infection treatments and if ear tubes are right for your child’s situation.

What Are Some Other Ear Infection Treatment Options?

You may wish to avoid ear tube surgery, or you may have been told that your child doesn’t need ear tubes, but you may still be facing recurring ear infections. Or maybe you’ve been told your child should get ear tubes, but you’re concerned about the possible complications or wish to find a less invasive route. If you’re looking for alternative ear infection treatment options, you’ve come to the right place. Maybe your child didn’t perform well on a hearing test but your pediatrician is concerned about doing surgery. Thankfully, there are some other options to try before you commit to ear tube surgery for your child.

You can ask your pediatrician to prescribe antibiotics that are known to help with ear infections. While these won’t work on viral infections, bacterial infections are often gone quickly once beginning antibiotics. You can also wait out a minor ear infection. Most will go away on their own within a few days, and if your child seems to be okay, you can just wait for his or her body to get rid of the problem on its own. Another great option is chiropractic care. Because the Eustachian tubes are so close to the spine and are directly connected to the nerves that run through the spine, chiropractic care is a great way to naturally treat ear infections in children. Since ear infections are more common during cold and flu season, do what you can to help your child stay healthy all year round. Make sure they’re eating a healthy diet, getting exercise, and drinking enough water so they can strengthen their immune system and avoid getting sick.

Trust the Experts at NCHS

If you suspect your child may need ear tubes, get in touch with us today to set up a time to discuss your concerns. Additionally, if you’ve been told your child should get ear tubes but you are concerned about it, we can discuss alternative options and make some additional treatment suggestions for your child’s next ear infection. Our incredible doctors, caring staff members, and state-of-the-art facilities have made affordable, quality care possible for those in North County, and we look forward to serving your family soon at one of our many locations.