Ear infections are very common, especially in children. Most ear infections either resolve on their own or are effectively treated by antibiotics. But sometimes ear infections and/or fluid in the middle ear become chronic.
When infections and/or fluid in the middle ear become chronic it may lead to hearing impairment, behavior problems, or delay in development of speech and language. In these cases the insertion of a ventilation tube may be advised by the otolaryngologist.
Ventilation tubes, or tympanostomy tubes, are tiny tubes, which are placed in the eardrum in order to connect the middle ear cavity with the external auditory canal. This allows air into the middle ear for ventilation and/or drainage of fluids from the middle ear into the external auditory canal.
The most common indications for the insertion of a ventilation tube are a repeated middle ear infection (acute otitis media), or persistent presence of middle ear fluid (OME=otitis media with effusion). Other less common indications are malfunctioning of the Eustachian tube, malformation of the ear drum, or complications of a middle ear infection such as mastoiditis.