Middle ear infections (otitis media) are common in children. When a child has repeated ear infections or fluid build-up in the ears that do not go away easily or that cause hearing problems or speech delays, a doctor may recommend surgery to insert an ear tube to allow the eardrum to equalize the pressure.
The surgery, called a myringotomy, is a tiny incision in the eardrum. Any fluid, usually thickened secretions will be removed. In most situations, a small plastic tube (a tympanostomy tube) is inserted into the eardrum to keep the middle ear aerated for a prolonged period of time. These ventilating tubes remain in place for six months to several years. Eventually, they will move out of the eardrum (extrude) and fall into the ear canal. Your doctor may remove the tube during a routine office visit or it may simply fall out of the ear.
Less common conditions that may call for the placement of ear tubes are malformation of the ear drum or Eustachian tube, Down’s syndrome, cleft palate, and barotrauma (middle ear injury caused by a reduction of air pressure), according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.