Authored by Revere Health

What to Expect with Ear Tubes

July 21, 2017 | Ear, Nose, Throat

A common treatment for children with persistent fluid buildup in the ear or regular ear infections is called ear tubes (also known as tympanostomy tubes, ventilation tubes or pressure equalization tubes). These are small, hollow cylinders that are surgically inserted into the eardrum.

The purpose of an ear tube is most often to provide long-term drainage and ventilation to ears that have had persistent fluid buildup or chronic infections. Here’s what you can expect before, during and after an ear tube procedure if one becomes necessary for your child.


Before the Procedure

First, your doctor will give you instructions on how to prepare your child for surgery. You’ll be asked about medications they take, any family history of reactions to anesthetics and any known allergies or negative reactions to medications like antibiotics. You’ll also get a chance to ask questions about the procedure, including whether your child needs to fast.

Once you’ve arrived for the procedure, your doctor will administer anesthetic. From here, the surgical team will place several monitors on the chest to make sure that heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels remain consistent through the procedure.

During the Procedure

The procedure for an ear tube usually takes about 15 minutes. The steps are as follows:

  • The surgeon makes a tiny incision with a small scalpel or laser
  • The surgeon suctions out fluids from the middle ear
  • The surgeon inserts the tube in the hole in the eardrum


After the Procedure

After surgery, your child will be moved to a recovery room where they’ll be watched for any complications from surgery or the anesthetic. Assuming no issues are present, you will be allowed to go home within a few hours. Expect your child to be sleepy and irritable for the rest of the day, and potentially nauseous from the anesthetic.

In most cases, children will be able to resume regular activities within 24 hours after surgery. Any hearing loss caused by fluid in the middle ear will be immediately resolved by this surgery.

If there are no complications after surgery, standard follow-up care includes:


  • An initial appointment within the first two to four weeks after the surgery. This includes checks for proper placement and function of the tubes. Follow-ups with your otolaryngologist or your primary care physician will be scheduled at four-to-six-month intervals.
  • In some cases, your child may be prescribed eardrops to minimize fluid discharge. Even if drainage problems don’t appear or seem to go away before these are finished, be sure to have your child finish the full course of treatment.
  • If the child had hearing loss before surgery, your doctor will order a hearing test to assess outcomes post-surgery.
  • Your doctor may suggest that your child wears earplugs during swimming or bathing in some cases.


If you notice a yellow, brown or bloody discharge from the ear that persists for over a week, or if your child has consistent pain, hearing or balance issues, contact your doctor immediately.


Our specialists have received extensive training and completed a variety of procedures, offering the best ENT care for our patients. As a part of the Revere Health system, our ENT doctors also have access to a variety of specialties to ensure that patients receive coordinated care.



“Ear tubes.” The Mayo Clinic.

“Tubes for Ear Infections.” WebMD.



The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.