Getting Ear Tubes As An Adult
A myringotomy is a surgical procedure performed to relieve inner ear pressure. The procedure is quick and involves a small incision into the eardrum. Ear tubes in adults are used to treat frequent ear infections, hearing loss, excess fluid, and inner ear trauma.
What are ear tubes?
Ear tubes are tiny cylinders surgically inserted into the eardrum. The tubes prevent the build-up of fluid behind the eardrum and allow for better ventilation between the inner and middle ear. Ear tubes relieve pressure, reduce the occurrence of infection, and improve hearing loss. Ear tubes are more common in children than in adults. Most are temporary and fall out within 6 to 12 months.
Signs ear tubes are needed
Not all inner ear issues will require a myringotomy or ear tubes. Antibiotics, ear drops, and even small dietary changes can help with many inner ear problems. For situations where medication and other treatments will not work, a myringotomy is the next best choice. Common reasons adults receive ear tubes are:
1. Frequent ear infection
Frequent ear infections can cause pain and scarring to the inner ear. Chronic conditions can cause the eustachian tube to become blocked and builds pressure behind the eardrum. Ear tubes will improve ventilation and reducing the number of infections.
2. Hearing loss
Hearing loss can occur when there is a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum. Hearing loss can lead to speech delays and problems with communication. In adults, the loss of hearing can significantly impact job performance and family life.
3. Loss of balance
Excess fluid in the ear not only affects hearing but stability as well. The inner ear has two main functions, hearing and balance. When the vestibular part of the inner ear becomes blocked, adequate sensory information does not make it to the brain. The brain will then overcompensate, through leaning or eye movement, to keep the body upright.
4. Inner ear trauma
Barotrauma is the reason most adults receive ear tubes. Barotraumas are injuries sustained to the eardrum as the result of a rapid increase or decrease in air or water pressure. The most common cause is air travel and scuba diving.
What happens during surgery?
A myringotomy is a surgical procedure in which a small incision is made into the eardrum. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and lasts approximately 15 minutes. During the process, the surgeon uses a scalpel to create a small incision in the eardrum to relieve the pressure and removes any excess fluid. The surgeon will likely insert ear tubes (into the incision) to prevent the condition from recurring.
Adults are monitored for a brief period after the procedure but are typically able to return home the same day. Patients will likely be given eardrops to reduce the risk of infection. Ears should be covered when bathing or swimming to reduce the risk of a bacterial infection. Complications are rare but can include high fever, abnormal drainage, continuous bleeding, a permanent hole, and chronic drainage. Minor discomfort is to be expected. Hearing loss associated with the fluid build-up goes away immediately after surgery. The incision will heal naturally.
Ear tubes in adults
Ear tubes reduce the risk of repeat ear infections and can improve hearing and balance. The incision made into the eardrum during a myringotomy improves drainage between the inner and middle ear. Ear infections and barotrauma are the most common reasons adults receive ear tubes.