Ear Tubes - Yay or Nay?

Calling all parents…

Our little doodles has had a seemingly non-stop ear infection since about last September (I exaggerate, but not by much). Everyone we’ve talked to who has had a similar experience has usually ended up having ear tubes (stents?) installed. To hear almost all of them, these things are truly miraculous.

Our little rugrat is 10 months old now, and it seems she’s always on one antibiotic or another. Lately they’ve been causing her a lot of stomach upset, so we’ve started talking about tubes. Oue pediatrician is open-minded about them, but thinks we should wait until fall as most kids with chronic ear infections get better in the summer.

We’ve been getting a lot of grief from my sister-in-law, but she is one of these no-vaccinations, breastfeed-till-puberty, if-it’s-not-organic-it’s-crap types, so I tend to take what she says with several grains of salt.

Has anyone out there had experience with these things? Any advice? Thanks!

My daughter had tubes inserted about 6 months ago and has not had an ear infection since then. Previously, she had them about every month and had run through just about every antibiotic we could find. Her ears would hurt from the pressure and we’d get the antibiotics. The antibiotics would upset her stomach so she wouldn’t eat, which made her even more irritable. Finally, I said “Enough of this craziness.”

The procedure took about 15 minutes and was more traumatic for her mother and me than it was for her. I suppose you could wait 'til fall but if the infections are just going to start up again (and I suspect they will), why do that?

Have someone stick a needle into your sister-in-laws ear drum (which is how my nephew described the pain of a ruptured eardrum brought on by an ear infection)then ask her if she’d suggest you wait. If she still says “yes, wait” tell her, as politely and as matter-of-factly as you can, to go to hell.

Along with frequent ear infections, I had severe wax build-up as a child (age 5?). I had tubes in both ears. It was an overnight hospital stay in the mid-1970’s. Now, I understand it’s outpatient?

Anyway, I understand it is a common and simple enough procedure. It helped me, and I don’t think I had much choice!

  • Jinx

Well, I think it’s safe to say that if she’s horrified by anything, then you should definitely do it. My younger brother had to have tubes in his ears, and it was definitely beneficial to him. Since he had it done, I’ve read on the subject when the opportunity presents itself, and so far, just about everything I’ve read says that this procedure helps most of the patients who undergo it. I’ve only read a few people who don’t like this, and they are, in your words, if-it’s-not-organic-it’s-crap types. Sorry, I don’t have cites right at my fingertips, this is my impression of years of reading about this procedure.

And as plnnr says, ruptured eardrums are NOT fun.

Well, I’m not a parent, but maybe I can help out a little bit here.

I’m an audiologist, and I did my fellowship at a pediatric hospital. Saw a lot of cases of chronic middle ear infections. Oftentimes I would see the kid before the tubes were installed, and after, and the results were quite dramatic. Hearing usually improved significantly to the point where sensitivity was back in the normal range.

Young children learn speech and language through hearing, and when their ears are chronically full of gunk (I know, not the official medical term), it can have an impact on their speech and language development.

This can be a problem, since middle ear infections are extremely common in young children. (It has to do with the eustachian tubes…ask me for details if you’re really desperate to know. Otherwise I won’t bore the SDMB with it.)

It is indeed done as an outpatient procedure. The benefits far outweigh the risks. If I had a child, and he or she was in the same position as your child, I’d push for tubes.

But that’s just my humble opinion.

The Ryskid had constant ear infections. It was rare when there wasn’t some amoxicillin in the house. He got the tubes put in and, presto-changeo, no more infections. When the tubes came out, the infections started again. More tubes, infections stop. Tubes fall out, infections again. More tubes, infections stop.

The last tubes came out a couple of years ago, and he seems to have outgrown the infections…finally!

The procedure really is quick fast. Relatively painless, too, I think. At least my son didn’t complain of any pain when he woke up.

I’ve had ear infections–mine were exquisitely painful.

Hell yeah, I’d advocate tubes.

I’ve had tubes put in my ears 6 times since I was 5 yrs old. They alway stop my ear infections and improve my hearing. It is a real simple procedure, in fact I had them put in once while I was holding my 3 month old daughter.The only down side is you have to be real careful about not getting any water in the ears.

Oh, spill it. A lot of Dopers have or want to have kids, and here’s YOUR chance to help fight ignorance! I have a vague idea of what you’re talking about, but let’s hear the professional version, hmmmmm?

ok, I’m not the ear expert, but my understanding is that when you are older, your eustachian tubes point downward (hence, things can drain) but in infants and small children, the eustachian tubes are straight across, so there’s no way for stuff to drain.

I’ve not had the tube experience, but my friends have, so far none has regretted it.
I always get concerned when people want to avoid vaccinations, but that’s another thread for another time, I’m sure.

As Rally said, the eustachian tubes of children don’t slant enough to readily drain into the throat. “Gunk” settles in them and offers a prime breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria. Hey! You’ve got an ear infection. As the child grows the tubes begin to have a greater degree of slant and they more readily drain.

Well, Rally Vincent and plnnr beat me to it. I honestly didn’t think people would be interested, but I’ll know not to underestimate curiousity next time. :slight_smile:

My son had chronic ear infections when he was 6 months to 4 years old when it was suggested to try having tubes placed. We found that he had a 50% hearing loss in both ears before and normal hearing afterwards. A lot of the time when I though he was ignoring me or being willfully disobediant he actually could not hear me. I don’t know how we could not have known he had a hearing problem, but we didn’t.

It took 5 years of speech therapy for him to be able to enunciate correctly because he was unable to hear during the crucial periods of early language development.

The first time he said “Mom I didn’t know the birds could sing, it sounds really pretty”, I actually cried. I never doubted for a minute that we had made the right decision.

Aw! That’s really touching.

Just another note about my son’s ears… One time the doctor took a look into his ear and said he didn’t know why my son wasn’t screaming in pain because most adults would be if they had the same infection. That made me really sad.

I did two weeks on ENT surgery earlier this year, and I’m on Pediatrics right now. Our recommendations on both have been that if a kid has six ear infections in a year, he should get tubes. It sounds like your tot is on pace for that, but your pediatrician is right in that it might clear up in the summertime. I would want him to keep an eye on it, though–these are key speech-forming months coming up, and you’d like his hearing to be in good shape.

The operation itself is really anti-climactic. (Typical parent comment: “That’s it?”) It’s the Tyson fight of surgery–plenty of hype, lots of setup, then about thirty seconds later it’s over.

(Note: When I’m posting medical information, I always like to reiterate that I’m but a medical student, so don’t take this as qualified medical advice or anything.)

Dr. J

My brother, who is now 18 years old, has a permanent speech impediment because he did not get tubes in his ears until after he had already learned to talk. He has trouble pronouncing the letter “r”, so he always sort of sounds like Elmer Fudd. He’s been to speech therapists who have taught him some work-arounds, but it’s still noticeable. My boyfriend commented on it (not in front of my brother) after the first time they met.

So, get the tubes before it’s too late.

My daughter was 6 1/2 years old when we got her ear tubes put in. Actually, since she had no infection, but was clogged up from a past infection and could barely hear, I don’t know what took the drs. so long to decide to do the procedure. I was completely ready for it when it happened. It was so sad to know that she was almost completely deaf just from fluid in her ears and she would be able to hear perfectly if they were drained. But finally the happy day came.

BTW, that was only daughter’s second bad ear infection. There were 5 years in between them. She had had one minor one before that when she first started on a bottle for daycare. So this situation took us totally by surprise.

We did lots and lots of research on anything we could get our hands on including alternative medicine, allergies, and other causes of ear problems. We had no problem then deciding that the ear tubes were very necessary, but we did not opt for the tonsilectomy(sp?) and adnoid removal that the ENT recommended. Instead we took her to my allergist and found that this whole episode was probably caused from fall allergies and she is being treated for that successfully.

And many drs. nowadays don’t say that the ears have to stay dry. Just that the water has to be clean like from a swimming pool or bathtub. That’s what our ENT said anyway.

Good luck. I know it’s a hard decision to put your baby under for an operation, no matter how simple.

That’s the exact same thing that the Otolaryngologist told us when we took babyjesus to get his tubes.

I have to agree with everyone else. Take little doodles as soon as possible. And don’t sweat it when they take her away to do the procedure.

Thanks for all of the replies. We really are leaning towards getting the tubes. The latest drugs were upsetting her stomach, so the doc gave her injectable anti-b’s. It just kills us when we see her grab her ears and head in pain.

Oh, and by the way…

Somebody get me a tissue please.

I’m 14, and I got tubes when I was about 5 or 6. I haven’t had any ear problems since then, and I didn’t have any discomfort from them at all.

Hmmm… I’ll rephrase that. I didn’t have any discomfort from the tubes at all.