Is Ear Tube Surgery Worth the Benefits?

When a child has fluid in their middle ear, parents are faced with a big decision. Do they choose to take the risk of ear tube surgery and put in ear tubes or do they wait and see? New research is causing doctors to reconsider their positions on this subject.

Researchers looked at cases of children who suffered from otitis media with effusion, or OME, and subsequently who had ear tube surgery. They found that while this procedure improved hearing for a time and relieved some of the pain, putting in ear tubes, in the long run, did not amount to the effects they were hoping for. The improvements in hearing ability as a result of ear tube surgery only lasted less than a year. 

Fluid in the middle ear can cause pain and hearing loss, but the fluid itself does not carry an infection. OME affects most children and has at least one case in their childhood years. It is the leading cause for ear tube surgery. One technique is to make a small cut and insert a tube to relieve pain by draining fluid and decreasing pressure. At times this procedure is coupled with another where tissue is removed from the throat. Treatment results were seen to last up to two years. The conclusion of the case review was that while these types of procedures can have positive short-term effects, they do not really make a difference in the long-term development of speech and hearing.

When weighing their options for ear tube surgery, parents should consider the possible positive effects and the short-term improvements in their child’s life against the possible risks that come with undergoing surgery. In the studies, researchers were also hoping to find what the effects of these types of procedures would be on adults, but unfortunately the results were inconclusive.