Ventilation tubes, or ear tubes, are plastic inserts placed in the eardrum to help air enter the middle ear, allow fluid out of the ear, prevent future buildup of fluid and restore hearing. These tubes are most commonly used in children with repeated ear infections and fluid in the ears for more than three months. Tubes are placed during a surgical procedure known as myringotomy, which takes only 10 to 15 minutes to perform.
In most patients, these short-acting tubes will fall out on their own within 6 to 12 months after insertion. Sometimes, ear tubes never fall out and will need to be surgically removed through a minimally invasive procedure. In cases requiring long-acting tubes such as T-Tubes, a brief anesthetic in a surgical setting may be necessary to remove the tube from the eardrum. Removal is quick and painless for most patients and helps to reduce the risk of eardrum perforation, as well as prevent debris from accumulating around the tube.