Ear Tube Insertion

Ear Tube Insertion Procedure:

There are different types of ear tubes. There are two types of permanent ear tubes for adults. One type is made from silicone and the other one is made from plastic. These two types have different advantages and disadvantages.

The main advantage of silicone ear tubes is that they last longer than plastic ones because it does not break down over time like plastic ones do. Also, silicone ear tubes are easier to clean and less likely to fall out due to their non-porous nature. Plastic ear tubes however, are more expensive and harder to get.

The second type of permanent ear tubes is called a “Permanent Inflatable Ventilator” or PIV (pronounced puh-VAY). These are used for children with severe medical conditions where there is no room left inside the body for a normal airway. The PIV is inflated until it reaches the child’s chest cavity. Then, the ventilator is connected to a pump which allows it to work normally.

If necessary, the pump can be turned off so that the patient doesn’t suffocate.

In some cases, these devices are used for infants who cannot breathe through their mouths due to a congenital defect such as cleft palate or other problems with breathing passages in mouth and throat area. These defects prevent normal breathing. In other cases, these devices are used to keep a patient alive for a short time while they are on a waiting list for a lung transplant.

Ear Tube Surgical Procedures:

Surgery can be done in several ways depending on the size of the eardrum and how many tubes need to be inserted. A general examination is done and if it is determined something should be done then ear tubes are usually recommended. In severe cases, a general anesthetic is recommended because local anesthetic may not work.

If ear tubes are to be inserted, a small surgical cut is made behind the ear. The surgeon will then make an incision inside the ear canal and remove some of the natural wax that naturally builds up there. This will allow room for the new tubes to be placed. The tubes are then gently slid into the ear and secured in place with a small piece of soft tape.

After the procedure is finished, the surgeon will put a bandage over the opening of the ear while it heals.

Post-Surgery Care:

You may experience some pain after the surgery, and can be treated with pain killers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen as recommended by your physician. You should not swim for at least 2 weeks to allow the ear to heal.

You can remove the bandage after a few days, but avoid getting water or dirt in the incision for at least a week. Keep your head elevated when laying down for the first few days.

Most people can return to work and school on the same day of surgery. You will likely experience some temporary hearing loss, but it will gradually return.

Risks and complications:

As with any medical procedure, complications can sometimes occur such as infection, bleeding or damage to the ear drum. Your doctor will examine you before discharging you from the hospital to ensure that there are no problems.

You may have some temporary hearing loss after the surgery, but this will usually return to near normal levels within a few weeks. In rare cases, some people experience a prolonged loss of hearing or reduced hearing. This is more likely if your eardrum is severely scarred or perforated before the procedure.

Other risks include damage to the ear, such as damage to the ear drum or injury to the bones in the middle ear. Damage to facial nerves is also a possibility, which can cause temporary or permanent facial paralysis on that side of the face. Infection is a risk with any surgery and your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help prevent this.

Rarely, the tube can come out of place or move out of the ear. In addition, if your eardrum was perforated before the surgery, you may experience some hearing loss after the surgery.


The incision will generally heal in 7 to 10 days, and the scab will fall off by itself. You can wash the incision once it is healed, but must be very careful not to get water in the ear. If you get water in the ear, you may have to undergo another surgery to replace the tube or perform a myringotomy (surgery on the eardrum) to let the water out.

You should avoid all contact sports and swimming for at least two weeks after surgery. Be sure to keep all appointments with your surgeon for follow-up visits to ensure the incision heals properly.

Most people return to their normal lives after 2 to 3 days. It is a good idea to rest the ear that had surgery for 7 to 10 days. For the first week, you should avoid any kind of water activity such as swimming or bathing. After that, you can gradually begin to swim again, but it is still highly recommended that you avoid getting water inside your ear for at least two weeks after surgery.

In addition, avoid loud noises for at least a month (such as concerts or shooting firearms). This will also prevent possible perforation of the eardrum.

You should be able to return to school or work within a few days after surgery as long as you are feeling well and not experiencing any pain or other complications. You should avoid heavy lifting or activities that require you to turn your head a lot for at least a week after the surgery.

It is normal to have some swelling, redness or bleeding from the incision site for several days after surgery. If these symptoms do not go away or get worse, contact your doctor immediately.

Sources & references used in this article:

Ear tube and method of insertion by F Hill, T Prescott – US Patent App. 10/197,977, 2003 – Google Patents

Emergence characteristics of sevoflurane compared to halothane in pediatric patients undergoing bilateral pressure equalization tube insertion by JP Cravero, M Beach, CP Dodge, K Whalen – Journal of clinical anesthesia, 2000 – Elsevier

Behavior and quality of life measures after anesthesia for tonsillectomy or ear tube insertion in children by K Howard, E Lo, S Sheppard, R Stargatt… – Pediatric …, 2010 – Wiley Online Library

Treatment of persistent middle ear effusion in cleft palate patients by C Szabo, K Langevin, S Schoem, K Mabry – International journal of …, 2010 – Elsevier

The quality and accuracy of internet information on the subject of ear tubes by TC McKearney, RM McKearney – International journal of pediatric …, 2013 – Elsevier

Ear tubes by D Cohen – US Patent 8,197,433, 2012 – Google Patents