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4/27/23 blog post

understanding ear infections and ear tubes

little girl with earache or ear infection

in this article:

If you’re a parent, it’s likely you’ve had a kiddo with an ear infection or two or three! Ear infections are very common, especially between the ages of six months and two years, and nearly every child will get an ear infection at some point. According to the National Institutes of Health, five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday, and ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their child to a doctor.

symptoms of an ear infection

Ear infections typically develop following an upper respiratory infection, like a common cold. An ear infection occurs when mucus or swollen tissues from a cold block the Eustachian tube, which connects the ear to the back of the throat and helps to ventilate and drain the middle ear. This blockage creates pain and pressure.

Symptoms of an ear infection, include:

  • Fever
  • Earache
  • Pulling on their ear
  • Trouble eating, drinking or sleeping
  • Fluid draining from the ear

Ear infections can be managed by your child’s pediatrician or one of Dayton Children’s Kids Express locations in Beavercreek, Mason, Springboro or West Chester. They will be able to diagnose and treat the ear infection with an antibiotic, if necessary.

ear infections and speech development

Did you know ear infections can play a role in your child’s speech development? Babies can begin developing ear infections as early as six months old. And because of the fluid buildup behind their ear drums, it can lead to hearing loss or difficulty hearing for a brief period of time.

Babies who have a lot of ear infections, or have fluid behind their ear drums, may have longer periods of hearing loss, which can contribute to a speech delay. Babies learn speech through imitating their environment and this can be difficult if they’re having a hard time hearing.

Once your child receives ear tubes, this hearing loss is often corrected.

does your child need ear tubes?

After several ear infections, you may be wondering if it’s time for your child to get ear tubes. Ear tubes are tiny tubes made of metal or plastic. During ear tube surgery, a small hole is made in the eardrums and the tubes are inserted. The opening to the middle ear (the area behind the eardrum) lets air flow in and out. This keeps air pressure even between the middle ear and the outside and helps to drain fluid that builds up behind the eardrum.

Below are some common indicators that your child may benefit from having ear tubes. Does your child have:

  • Regular ear infections (more than three infections in the last year)?
  •  A family history of ear infections or ear tube surgery?
  • Persistent fluid in their ear that doesn’t seem to go away?
  • Decreased hearing or delays in speech development?

If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, your child may be at high-risk for needing ear tubes. Take our 60-second ear tube quiz

ear tube surgery at Dayton Children’s

Ear tube surgery at Dayton Children’s is performed at our outpatient surgery centers located at our main campus in Dayton and south campus in Springboro. Our pediatric ENT team is uniquely prepared to treat children requiring ear tubes. From our pediatric fellowship-trained ENT providers to our child life specialists and anesthesia team, we understand that kids are not just little adults and require special, comprehensive care.

Dayton Children’s performs more ear tube surgeries than any other surgery at the hospital, with more than 2,000 ear tube surgeries performed each year at our main and south campus surgery centers.

Benefits of ear tube surgery, include:

  • Reduced frequency and severity of ear infections
  • Improved hearing by restoring normal drainage of fluids from the middle ear.
  • Relief from symptoms like ear pain, pressure, and discomfort associated with chronic ear infections

If you think your child may benefit from ear tube surgery, you can make an appointment online with one our pediatric ENT providers.