Never Too Old For Ear Tubes
Ear infections happen when a bacteria or virus affects the middle ear. The result is constant inflammation and fluid buildup in the ear. Although children get more frequent ear infections, adults are not exempt. There is a small subset of adults that get ear infections every year. As such, these adults may also need ear tubes, which may be inserted through a myringotomy.
Understanding ear tubes
So what are ear tubes anyway? Ear tubes are tiny cylinders usually made of plastic or metal. These tubes get surgically implanted into the eardrum for a short period. A doctor inserts an ear tube to provide a vent in the middle ear. This vent prevents fluids from accumulating behind the eardrum. Ear tubes are also called tympanostomy tubes, ventilation tubes, myringotomy tubes, and pressure equalization tubes.
Why would you need an ear tube in the first place?
Most ear infections respond well to non-surgical treatment. A doctor will first prescribe antibiotics, antihistamines, or nasal steroids. These clear up the inflammation for adults and kids alike. However, there are a few reasons why these fail, and ear tubes are necessary:
- Fluid may be trapped behind the eardrum and may cause inflammation. It may also build up in the middle ear that may lead to viral or bacterial infection.
- A middle ear infection may result in hearing loss. Infections can cause speech development delays, communication and behavioral problems, and poor school performance in children.
- After 3 or more episodes in 6 months or 4 or more in a year, ear tubes may help.
- Chronic middle ear infections do not improve despite antibiotic treatment.
- Chronic suppurative otitis media is a persistent ear infection that may lead to tearing or perforation of the eardrum.
Time for a myringotomy
Myringotomy is one of the possible treatments for an ear infection if the patient does not respond to the medical treatments. This procedure can also acquire sample fluid from the middle ear or place ear tubes. Looking through a microscope, the doctor makes a tiny incision in the eardrum. Then, the doctor drains any trapped fluid from the middle ear. Afterward, the ear tube will be inserted and left in place. Myringotomies are minimally invasive and last about 20 minutes, meaning the patient can go home soon afterward.
What to expect after surgery
Once the tubes are inserted, the patient may feel some popping, pulsation, or clicking in the ear. There will also be some minor pain, especially when burping, chewing, or yawning. The fluid will slowly run out as the days progress, and some patients see a clear discharge on the ear. The doctor doesn’t need to close the incision as the ear heals around the tube. By then, the tubes will fall out naturally. If the tubes fall out prematurely, immediately contact the physician.
Protection through ear tubes
Adults may be greater impacted by ear infections since the condition may affect the quality of life. If the medicine fails, myringotomy is best. These tiny tubes have a secondary function. The ventilation provided by ear tubes keeps the air in the middle ear refreshed. Tubes also equalize the pressure inside the ear with the air pressure outside the body and provide drainage that prevents fluid buildup in the ear. If the air is causing pain and discomfort at any age, speak with a doctor immediately.