Ear tubes, or tympanostomy tubes, are small cylinders surgically inserted in the eardrum to relieve chronic ear infection or persistent middle-ear fluid. Though ear-tube insertion is especially common for children, it can also help adults who experience frequent ear infections and other conditions. Read on to learn more about ear tubes, including the benefits they can provide.

How Do Ear Tubes Work?

These small cylinders, shaped similar to tiny T-tubes or thread spools, serve as a passageway for air to move through the eardrum and into the middle ear. Their placement in the ear can help:

  • Increase ventilation in the middle ear
  • Curb fluid buildup behind the middle ear
  • Balance the pressure in the middle ear

What Is the Surgical Process? 

Ear tube surgery for adults is a relatively quick outpatient procedure — typically less than 20 minutes. The surgery, called a “myringotomy,” includes general anesthesia and involves:

  • Cutting a small hole in the eardrum
  • Removing the fluid accumulated in the middle ear
  • Placing the ear tube in the hole made by the incision

Typically the tubes remain in the ear about six months before naturally falling out on their own. Others are meant to stay in place up to a few years. In some cases, ear tubes don’t come out on their own and must instead be removed through surgery.

What Are the Benefits of Ear Tubes?

For those experiencing conditions such as chronic ear infections and related sleeping difficulties, middle-ear fluid buildup, balance issues, hearing loss, or speech problems, ear tubes may bring significant relief. Outcomes can include a lowered chance of middle-ear infections, better hearing, more restful sleep, and other important benefits.

If you think you or a loved one may benefit from ear tubes, don’t wait. Contact our our ear, nose, and throat experts today to schedule a comprehensive evaluation.