Ear infections are a common occurrence in children. Viral infections should resolve by themselves, but bacterial infections may require antibiotic treatment. Although ear infections most commonly affect children, they can also occur in teens and adults and can lead to hearing loss, speech and balance issues, or damage to the eardrum. If ear infections, fluid build up, or hearing loss become a chronic problem, ear tubes may be considered as a treatment for those problems.
What are ear tubes? They are tiny cylinders placed through the tympanic membrane in the ear drum to allow air flow into the middle ear. They are often referred to as PE (pressure equalization) tubes. This procedure is the most common childhood surgery performed with anesthesia.
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More than 31.5 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, and an estimated three out of every 1,000 children in the US may be born with hearing loss¹. Hearing loss can be present from birth or happen suddenly or gradually over time. Hearing loss can instigate a feeling of isolation from a world of sound. Treatment for hearing loss might be as simple as earwax removal, antibiotic treatment for an infection, a change in diet, or ear tube placement. For others, hearing aids or more advanced treatments may be needed, such as a Cochlear or Baha implant.
1. Kochkin S. 2009 BHSM kit. [Online]. 2009 May [Cited May 2011]. Available from: BetterHearing.org
Richard G. Lee, MD is the only Otolaryngologist in Eastern Idaho currently offering Cochlear device implantation. He has teamed up with several other providers in the area to help patients who previously traveled to Salt Lake City or Boise for treatment. A Cochlear implant is suited for those who have severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss and attain almost no benefit from using a traditional hearing aid.
Depending on the degree of hearing loss, a Baha implant may be used to treat conductive and mixed hearing loss as well as single-sided deafness. A Baha implant is a surgically placed device that does not alter the normal mechanism of hearing.
- Avoid cleaning your ears with cotton swabs. This can lead to earwax impaction. If you are sure you do not have a perforation (or hole) in your eardrum, try using a couple drops of olive oil in each ear to breakup wax instead.
- Solution is not the solution. Avoid water in your ears, especially if you are prone to swimmer’s ear type infections. Swim-EAR is an over the counter product that can be used after watersports/swimming.
- Prevent hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) by using hearing protection, such as earplugs or muffs, while working with loud equipment or participating in loud activities. Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, so remember to limit exposure time to noisy recreational activities.