Understanding the Benefit of Ear Tubes - Chicago ENT

Understanding the Benefit of Ear Tubes

Hearing is a vital sense. It’s essential for maintaining mental, emotional, and physical health. A life with recurring ear problems can lead to hearing difficulties, cognitive decline, social isolation, and loneliness.

It can also affect your ability to maintain balance and communicate. If persistent ear issues have become your or your child’s new normal, ear tubes may be able to help.

Keep reading to learn more about ear tubes, signs that you may need them, and to understand the benefits of ear tubes.

What are Ear Tubes?

Ear tubes are tiny hollow cylinders made of metal or plastic inserted into the eardrum (tympanic membrane). They prevent moisture from accumulating behind the eardrum and let air into the middle ear.

Ear tubes are also called ventilation, pressure equalization, tympanostomy, or myringotomy tubes. Different types of ear tubes have different designs.

The kind of ear tubes used will depend on your or your child’s condition and the shape of the eardrum and ear canal.

Signs You or Your Child Might Need Ear Tubes

Your ENT specialist at Chicago ENT may recommend ear tubes if you or your child has any of the following:

Frequent or Persistent Ear Infections

If you or your child has had at least four infections in one year or three ear infections within the past six months, you may need ear tubes.

Common signs of an ear infection include:

  • Headache
  • Trouble hearing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Ear discomfort or pain
  • Fever, often low-grade
  • Pus-like drainage from the ear
  • A feeling of fullness inside the ear
  • Barotrauma

Barotrauma is an injury to the middle ear occurring when water or air pressure decreases or increases rapidly. The imbalance in pressure can cause the following symptoms:

  • Ear pain
  • Dizziness
  • Muffled hearing
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Bleeding into the middle ear or from the ears
  • Hearing loss

Barotraumas are caused by scuba diving, driving in the mountains, and flying. They are also one reason adults require ear tubes

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is another tell-tale sign that it might be time for ear tubes. Excess fluid in the middle ear can make hearing harder for you or your child.

Hearing loss may occur when fluid doesn’t drain effectively, collecting behind the eardrum.

Speech Delays

Hearing loss can cause problems with communication and speech delays in children of all ages. If your child shows signs of delayed speech or hearing loss, it’s time to ask your ENT specialist about ear tubes.

Eardrum Collapse

Your ENT specialist may recommend treating a collapsed eardrum with ear tubes. Also called a retracted eardrum, eardrum collapse happens when the eardrum falls inward due to negative pressure.

Common causes of a collapsed eardrum include chronic ear infections, fluid retention in the middle ear, and recurring ear infections.

  • If a retracted eardrum is left untreated, it can cause complications such as:
  • A constant ringing sound (tinnitus)
  • Loss of balance
  • Bone erosion in the ear
  • Hearing loss

Loss of Balance

The inner ear has sensitive sensors that depend on pressure to help you or your child stay balanced. When pressure is thrown off, it can lead to balance issues.

You may feel lightheaded, dizzy, or like the entire room is spinning around you. A retracted eardrum and an ear infection can also cause balance problems. Wearing ear tubes can help improve balance.

What are the Benefits of Ear Tubes?

There are various ways ear tubes can help with middle ear problems. They include:

Reducing the Number of Ear Infections

Ear tubes allow air to circulate in the middle ear and fluid to drain. This effectively reduces the number of ear infections and the need for repeated courses of antibiotics.

Correct Balance Issues

Ear tubes can stabilize the pressure in the ears. They keep fluid from building up, correcting the fluid imbalance affecting equilibrium.

This will help you or your child regain balance.

Treat Barotrauma

Ear tubes may be used to treat barotrauma in adults. They act as pressure equalization tubes, restoring normal air pressure in the middle ear.

This relieves the symptoms of barotrauma and prevents long-term ear damage that changes in atmospheric pressure may cause.

Restore Hearing

Once inserted, ear tubes ventilate the middle ear and keep fluid from building up, restoring hearing.

Alleviate Speech Problems

Ear tubes can return your child’s hearing to normal, improving speech during crucial developmental years. Good hearing and improved speech can help your child achieve key milestones sooner.

Fix a Retracted Eardrum

Inserting ear tubes can let air in the middle ear, equalize pressure, and push the eardrum back to its usual position, fixing a retracted eardrum.

Improve Behavior and Sleep Problems

When in place, ear tubes prevent the accumulation of fluid, which helps with sleep and behavior problems brought on by frequent ear infections.

How are Ear Tubes Placed?

The process of placing ear tubes is called ear tube surgery, tympanostomy tube insertion surgery, or myringotomy. It is performed under anesthesia.

Children are typically given general anesthesia to sleep during the procedure, while adults often receive local anesthesia.

During the simple and quick out-patient procedure:

  • Your ENT specialist will create a tiny hole or incision in the eardrum with a laser or scalpel
  • They then suction out fluid trapped in the middle ear
  • Next, they insert the ear tube into the incision in the eardrum. The ear tube allows fluid to drain out of the ear
  • If both ears need tubes, the same process is repeated on the other side
  • Ear tube surgery takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete

Are Ear Tubes Permanent?

Ear tubes are not permanent. Different ear tubes are used, depending on how long your ENT specialist at Chicago ENT wants them to stay in the ears.

Short-term ear tubes usually fall out independently in about 6 to 18 months as the eardrum heals, while long-term tubes remain in place longer.

Occasionally, the eardrum may not push the ear tubes out naturally. If you or your child’s ear tubes don’t fall out within two years, you’ll undergo a procedure to remove them. Keeping ear tubes for too long can create a permanent hole in the eardrum that will require surgical repair.

Hear Better

If you or your child suffer from frequent ear infections, dizziness, muffled hearing, or barotrauma, having ear tubes put in at Chicago ENT can help you find relief. Are you wondering if ear tubes are suitable for you or your child?

Learn more by scheduling your appointment at Chicago ENT at one of our 5 convenient locations. Why wait when you could have better hearing?


Chicago ENT has six convenient locations throughout the greater Chicago area. For the exact location and/or directions, simply click on the map next to your desired location. To book an appointment, call 773-296-5500 to speak to a scheduler or conveniently online 24/7.

Advanced Center for Specialty Care
3000 N. Halsted Street, Suite #400
Chicago, IL  60657

Phone: 773-296-5500

Office hours:
Monday 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
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Wednesday 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
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Saturday 9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Allergy Shot Clinic hours:
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Tuesday 8:30 am - 1:30 pm
Wednesday 12:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Thursday 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
Friday 8:30 am - 1:00 pm
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*Shot appointments are by appointment only
*All patient’s are required to wait 30 minutes after receiving allergy shot(s)

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St. Mary’s Hospital Professional Building
2222 W. Division Street,
Suite #330
Chicago, IL  60622

Phone: 773-296-5500
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Suite #700
Skokie, IL 60077

Phone: 773-262-4110
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Suite #405
Chicago, IL 60625

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2522 W. Peterson Avenue
Chicago, IL 60659

Phone: 773-262-4110
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St. Joseph Ascension Health Outpatient Pavilion
2845 N. Sheridan Rd,
Suite #807
Chicago, IL 60657

Phone: 773-296-5500
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