Skip to comments.Ear Infection? Think Twice Before Inserting a Tube
Posted on 08/19/2006 12:01:52 AM PDT by neverdem
When my sons were preschoolers in the early 70s, ear tubes were all the rage for children with recurring ear infections. Parents were bombarded by warnings that if fluid in the middle ear lingered long after treatment of an ear infection it could impair hearing and cause lasting developmental abnormalities, including problems with speech and language, learning and behavior.
Two decades later, ear tubes were still very much in fashion. A newsletter published in November 1993 for parents of young children proclaimed that hearing loss resulting from otitis media with effusion, or O.M.E., as the problem is known medically, can cause serious retardation of a childs language skills, teasing and tormenting by playmates and siblings, anger and punishment from parents or teachers who may think the child is deliberately ignoring them and even permanent hearing damage.
What conscientious parent would not want to prevent such disastrous consequences? And so a million or more children each year underwent surgery to have ventilation tubes inserted in one or both ears to clear the eustachian tube and allow the eardrum to move properly in response to incoming sounds.
Acting With the Best Intentions
The tubes were intended to remain in the ear for up to 14 months. By then, many children outgrow the problem. After age 3 or 4, Dr. Robert Stenstrom of St. Pauls Hospital in Vancouver explained, the eustachian tube lengthens and changes position, reducing the risk of middle ear infections and fluid buildup.
Still, after the tubes are removed or fall out on their own, many children need to have them replaced at least once. Each operation involves general anesthesia and the risks it entails.
According to a new long-term study by Dr. Stenstrom and colleagues, when young children were randomly assigned to receive ear tubes or to be treated...
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
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As I kid I was told "never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear."
Cotton swabs are risky as you found out, prolly spread the infections from scratching the skin inside the ear. Still it is difficult to believe you could not tell when contact with the eardrum occurred, because even if you can't feel it you can sure hear it.
If you have any hearing issues, it's likely due to the fact people are standing so far away from you.
But I have no idea how a 2 or 3 year old can put up with such pain.
What an idiot doctor! And the other doctor sounds more like a lawyer, covering for his colleague. Good grief, a veterinarian wouldn't clean an animal's ear like that!
Animal would bite his hand off.
I still have speech difficulties as a result of long term ear infections and fluid retention. I wish I had been able to have the tubes.
Sounds like grounds for malpractice!!
The thin med line. Hard to find a doctor to say another doctor is wrong, especially in the same clinic.
I put a couple of drops of listerine in my children's ears when they have an infection. It works every time, and is practically non-recurring.
Actually, things have changed.
Twenty years ago, the only treatment was antihistamines, which made a lot of kids sleepy and some very hyperactive/screaming reaction (and rarely seizures).
We had to give antibiotics for ten to fourteen days, and most moms missed doses or stopped them early...
Moms and dads smoked indoors, so more stuffy noses.
And a lot of the infections were caused by "H FLU" or pneumococcus, both of which can lead to meningitis (infection of the brain which can be fatal)
Now, we have clariten, which doesn't make the kids hyper/sleepy.
Antibiotics cost more, but usually you can give a couple days of zithromax and that's it.
Most moms and dads know not to smoke indoors.
And with the pneumonia and hFlu vaccines, we see less severe infections of the ears.\
So we probably don't need as many tubes, and we probably don't need to treat all cases with antibiotics to prevent meningitis and mastoiditis complications
I, too had that done as a 21 year old. My younger sister and I both had horrible ear infections. I had it in one ear, my sister in two. I volunteered to go first so she could see that it wouldn't be too painful and it would go easier on her. I have NEVER had anything pain-wise to compare with it. Like you, I have had many broken bones and serious surgeries, but absolutely nothing can describe the pain that this procedure was. He actually scrapped the ear drum.
However, I don't think that anything could have gotten a grip on the infection like that old doctor did. He was very, very compassionate and ripped his nurses for not letting us in to see him sooner. If I had to have a child (or adult)go through this, I would have them put under. It's a horrible thing. I had to sit and watch my little sister go through it two times knowing the pain she was enduring was excruciating to me.
My mother tells of her uncle, the dentist, taking hold of a nerve in her tooth with a pair of pliers and pulling it out. Her father and three older brothers had to hold her down. Today there would be mal-practice for such a procedure. I can't even imagine the pain that it must have caused. We should all be thankful for modern drugs.
My mother told me that as a baby/young child I was constantly getting ear infections. After I got the tubes I never had another one. Seems they worked great for me.
Very interesting. Thanks to all contributors.
Interesting tidbit, though a little late to benefit most here. Well, for those of you that are going to have children it is good info.
Breast fed babies have significantly fewer ear infections than formula feed babies. That was one (of many) reasons my wife nursed our daughter. Not only did she never have an ear infection, she only needed antibiotics once or twice in her entire life.
Dairy products are a factor in ear and sinus problems in babies and children. My daughter was very sensitive to dairy so she had very little as a kid. That helped too I believe.
I have a friend who swears by ear candling.
I had terrible recurrent middle ear infections as a child that were finally cured by tubes. I was an adopted child and so not breast fed. I breast fed both my babies, and to date neither has had a middle ear infection, and the oldest is almost a teenager. My daughter has never taken an antibiotic and my son has only taken an antibiotic once.
Curious, what causes itchy, flaky ears? I was told that fluid tingling in the middle ear caused the ears to itch. And that once one began scratching (like a dog), it would cause the outer ears to become irritated.
Stuff, acts, substances and events with no side effects likely have no effects at all.
I've also heard that but it didn't hold true in our family. I breast fed our daughter and she had several ear infections as a toddler, and can still manage to get one occasionally (usually associated with a cold) even though she's now a college student.
I was bottle fed and have never had an ear infection in my life. Go figure..
oops, should've previewed
Like everything, there are exceptions. Still, it had to improve your daughter's odds. She just fell in the wrong spot of the statistical curve. Also, consider the possibility that had she been raised on a dairy based formula her problems may have been considerably worse? Could be that she was predisposed to ear problems already. Shape of the ear, genetics, just poor luck.
There is hard evidence supporting this particular benefit of nursing. So personally, I subscribe to the notion that she was still better off in that regard thanks to nursing.
My son had an outer ear infection that caused his ear canal to swell and close up. When it was clearing the ENT specialist told him to use a solution of 50% vinegar and 50% rubbing alcohol. I have suggested this to other people who get outer ear infections and it seems to be very helpful.
BTW the doctor also told my son not to sleep with a fan blowing on his ear.
I once had a neighbor, an old Polish lady, who used to swear by her traditional method of treating ear infections. I don't recall the exact process but it involved a lit match. Yes, as in fire. Something about warming up the wax by inserting a string or something and setting fire to it.
Hey she lived to be 99.
Me, I've had a ringing in one ear for nearly 20 years. I just ignore it.
Candling! Thank you. That's what it's called. Bizarre.
I used to get frequent sore throat and sinus infections. As a natural extension this could lead to ear distress.
Last year I had a surgery that involved a Septoplasty and turbinate reduction. The results of the combined surgery was supposed to alleviate symptoms of Sleep Apnea. It has helped, but another benefit is that I no longer suffer from nasal or throat infections, nor ear aches as an extension of them.
I catch colds, I can feel them like I used to, but they dissapate within 6-8 hours as if they can never quite catch hold. The last one I felt was yesterday afternoon about 1:00PM, but by 6:00PM I was good enough to go to watch the Marlins get the snot beat out of them by the Braves. No further symptoms or anything...
So for anyone who suffers from these problems, perhaps they might check to see if they have a deviated septum or if they would benefit from turbinate reduction.
My surgery has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the quality of my life.
Jeff, didn't you have a similar surgery about a year ago? I've had wonderful results from mine, hope your experience is the same.
I had tubes put in my son's ears and it was a very bad experience. When the doctor suggested tubes for my daughter I said no way. She had maybe two more ear infections and then the problem went away on it's own
What bothers me the most is that there is no need to put the child under and insert tubes. They can accomplish the same thing by using a laser to put a hole in the ear drum. It is less trauma all the way around, heals better, and requires few if any follow up visits (like replacing the tubes that fall out). Of course, good luck finding a hospital that has this tool. As hard as they push tubes, it has to be a big revenue source for the doctors and hospitals.
>>Breast fed babies have significantly fewer ear infections than formula feed babies.<<
Then why were there ear infections at all before bottles?
I find the "breastfeeding" cure all to goes a little far.
My sisters had five children, all bottle fed.
There are now eight grandchildren from those kids, all bottle fed.
None of them had chronic ear infections and neither did my two bottle fed babies.
Breastfeeding is great but not the cure to the world.
Is this listerine like in mouth wash? I have had bad ears all my life....have to have my ears vacumned out every 6 months, but mine are different...
I have 'dry' ear...the skin inside my ears peel and go down the ear canal causing the ear infection....ear drops don't help, quite interested in this listerine...
My adopted son Vanya had chronic otitis media when he was in an orphanage in Kamchatka. They gave him antibiotics over and over, but never drained his ears. As a result, he spent his crucial language-formation years never hearing clear, articulate speech.
Now he's 14, and, in spite of years of systematic, targeted one-on-one aural training at home (from me, his homeschooling mom) plus intervention from the local University Speech and Communication Clinic, he still struggles with the legacy of CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder.)
I wish to goodness they had drained the fluid from his ears when he was 1, 2, 3, and 4 years old. It is so difficult for a kid when he can HEAR auditory signals but they just don't make a lot of sense.
I had four of my sinuses opened up and cleaned out due to chronic sinusitis, had my septon straightened to improve breathing, and had a polyp removed from underneath one of my sinuses near my orbital bone left over froma tweny year old injury. Was a heck of an experience for 2-3 weeks after the surgery, but has turned out well.
Same happened with my children. Two daughters got it on recommendation of dr. Son did not, also on dr.'s recommendation. My son suffered years of infections and speech difficulties (which he still has). I'd go for the tubes.
I'm SO glad you posted this! I am constantly standing too far away from everyone, consequently my kids keep yelling, "Put your hearing aids in!" I shall now just tell them to come closer. ;)
I had one of these when I was about 12 or so. I thought it was really cool how every so often I could get my ear to leak. One day it fell out on its own and that was that. No problems since that aren't attributable to loud concerts in crowded bars.
could you blow smoke out your ears too?
once had a neighbor kid who could do that....makes sense now he must have had tubes in his eardrums
well not "had" in *that* sense of the word....the kid was a neighbor...
Nope, never been able to do that, though I have seen others who could.
I never had ear problems until I was 42 years old. I think its all sinus related which has gotten worse the past two years. Had sinus surgery six years ago which helped reduce the sinus headaches but I still get infections which I think is effecting my ears. I got a bad ear infection last year and my ears have never gotten back to normal, constantly congested and intermittent pain. I'm on antibiotics now but nothing has changed.
I squeezed the liquid from vitamin A pills into my kid's ears. Very successful. Vitamin B-2 works wonders for kids with constant nose bleeds.