Ear tubes (tympanostomy tubes, ventilation tubes, pressure equalization tubes) are tiny cylinders, usually made of plastic or metal, that are surgically inserted into the eardrum. An ear tube creates an airway that ventilates the middle ear and prevents the accumulation of fluids behind the eardrum.

Ear tubes are often recommended for children who have persistent fluid buildup behind the eardrum, especially if the condition causes hearing loss and affects speech development. Your child's doctor may also recommend ear tubes if your child gets frequent ear infections.

Most ear tubes fall out within six to 12 months, and the holes heal shut on their own. Some tubes need to be removed, and some holes may need to be closed surgically.

Apr. 20, 2013