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After Tympanostomy (Ear Tubes)

Toddler sitting on woman's lap while doctor examines her ear with otoscope.Your child’s hearing should improve once the tubes are in place. For best results, follow up as instructed by your child’s surgeon. In some cases, ear problems may continue. However, you can help prevent ear infections by using good ear care.

Follow-up visit

  • Shortly after the surgery, your child’s surgeon may want to examine your child. This follow-up visit ensures that the tubes are still in place and that your child’s ears are healing.

  • After the initial follow-up, the healthcare provider may want to see your child every few months. Do your best to keep these visits. They’re the only way to make sure the tubes remain in place and stay open.

  • Most tubes stay in place for about a year. Some last longer. The life of the tube often depends on your child’s growth. Most tubes fall out on their own. In rare cases, tubes need to be removed by the surgeon.

Fewer problems

  • Even with tubes, your child may still get ear infections. Cranky behavior, ear drainage, and fever are all clues that you should be calling your child's healthcare provider. However, as long as the tubes are working, you can expect fewer problems and a quicker recovery.

  • If an infection does happen, it will likely respond to antibiotic ear drops. For more severe infections, oral antibiotics may be added. Always make sure your child finishes the entire prescription, even if the symptoms go away. Otherwise, the medicine may not work. Use only ear drops prescribed by your child’s provider.

Ear care

  • Ask your child's healthcare provider if your child’s ears should be protected from contact with water. Your child may need to wear earplugs during swimming and bathing if they put their heads under water.

  • Do not use any ear drops in your child's ears, unless prescribed by the surgeon or another provider.

  • Do not use cotton swabs to clean the ears. Used carelessly, they can clog tubes with wax or even damage the eardrum

Call your child's provider if he or she is showing any signs of the following:

  • Bloody drainage from the ears

  • Drainage from the ears that doesn't stop

  • Ear pain. Small children who can't tell you they are in pain, may pull and rub their ears

  • Fever. Medically, a person is not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38.0 C). In children, when to call your provider varies by age. Call:

    • If your baby is younger than 3 months (12 weeks) and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

    • If the fever rises above 104°F (40°C) repeatedly for a child of any age

    • The fever persists for more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 years.

    • The fever persists for more than 3 days (72 hours) in a child 2 years of age or older.

    • Your child still “acts sick” once his fever is brought down.

    • Your child seems to be getting worse

  • Trouble hearing

  • Problems with balance

Online Medical Reviewer: Ashutosh Kacker MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2016
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