If you are reading this, you are probably the parent of a child that has had problems with ear infections that occur over and over again. It seems like one infection gets cleared and in a flash, your child’s ears are infected again. It is not an uncommon problem in children and it is one that an ENT can help prevent with the insertion of tubes in your child’s ears.

What is tympanostomy?

Normally, fluid from the ears should drain to the back of the nose and down the throat. In children, this may not happen naturally as it should. That is because the drainage path is very short and is almost horizontal. As a result, gravity can’t help pull fluid down and out of the ear. When fluid is left behind, bacteria can grow and multiply and the result is a very painful infection.

Insertion of tiny tubes, a procedure known as tympanostomy, helps the fluid to drain and prevents ear infections.

If your child is having three to five infections a year, your pediatrician should recommend referral to an ENT that treats children for evaluation for this procedure.

Preparing for the visit

You will want to be prepared before the visit and you will want to help prepare your child. The ENT will want to know about your child’s history of ear infections. You might feel pressured to remember this in the office, so take the time to write down the approximate date of each infection. In addition, the ENT will want to know if your child has:

  • History of head injury
  • History of allergies
  • Other chronic medical conditions.

Your ENT will need to know if your child is currently taking any prescription medication. If so, make a list of the medication name, the dosage, and how long your child has been taking the medication. If your child takes supplements or vitamins, be sure to include those as well.

It is important to let your child know what to expect during the visit. Be sure to impress upon them that the ENT will need to examine their ears, nose, and throat but that the examination will not hurt.

What to expect during the ENT visit

The ENT will thoroughly examine your child’s ears, nose, and throat. He will use a bright light to aid in the examination. Reassure your child that the light won’t hurt. You may ask the ENT to let your child see any instrument used in the examination. An ENT that is good with children will be happy to oblige.

Questions to ask the ENT

You are your child’s most critical advocate. It is important for you to communicate with the ENT so that you understand any treatment proposed. If tympanostomy is recommended you may want to ask the ENT questions such as:

  • What are the risks of surgery?
  • Are effective alternative treatments available?
  • Will the tubes need to be removed?
  • Can my child swim or get his head wet if tubes are in the ears?
  • Will this affect my child’s hearing?
  • Will it hurt?

The ENT will be able to answer all your questions about the surgery including risks, complications and the risks associated with other forms of treatment. Delay in treatment can result in developmental delays in speech, be sure to discuss these if your child is young.

Finally, find out what follow up visits or procedures will be necessary. Your ENT is your partner in caring for your child.