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Ear Infections and Tubes

A single ear infection can be a horrible experience, but imagine if it was recurring.  Martha writes:

My two year old has had six ear infections since Thanksgiving and my six month old has had four. We've tried a variety of things and we can't seem to get their ears to clear.  Our MD said one next possible step is tubes in their ears.  I hate the idea of surgery for my kids, but I also hate them always being sick. I'm wondering if other readers have had experiences with tubes that they would share.

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We had them done in November. My daughter had been having one ear infection after another for most of her first year of life. It got to the point where antibiotics weren't working anymore and it was too painful for her to go through them without medication. She got them almost monthly, and when it happened in the summer months as well, we knew it was time.

As much as I hated the idea of having her go through surgery, I hated the idea of constantly medicating even worse.

The surgery was very quick and didn't seem to affect her at all. We were in and out of the hospital in 3 hours or so and she was up and playing that afternoon. This winter has been so different from our last - we havne't pulled out the Tylenol yet and haven't needed to take multiple trips to the doctor to get her prescriptions.

For us, it has made a huge difference!

we also had them done very recently, and my only advice is to do it earlier rather than later. our girl had glue ear, and that fluid was so thick (and wasn't able to fully drain), so the tubes are now blocked.

we're seeing a naturopath and considering an acupuncturist (any recommendations would be fabulous!) per our pediatrician, and have a follow up with our ENT (dr. barlow, and we love him!) in 2 months. if the tubes are still blocked, we'll go back in for another surgery, this time removing her adenoids, too.

the recovery, like andy said, was easy as pie. she was groggy for a bit after we got home, a little off balance, but the difference in her hearing and her voice (even though it was short lived) was noticeable right away.

We ended up going the tube route with my daughter. Chloe started taling fairly early. She had a handful of words (Mama, Dadda, clock, dog, bye-bye and a few others) under her belt at 9 months. She got her first ear infection around age one and the ear infections were pretty much non-stop after that. Usually, within two or three weeks of finishing up a course of antibiotics, both ears would be horribly infected again. We tried the no-antibiotics route some pediatricians now recommend and her ear drums ruptured and bled. It was so horrible. We tried using probiotics post-ear infection to help boost her immune system but the infections kept coming back. Finally, when my daughter was 18 months old, I mentioned to the pediatrician that I was concerned about her speech. She had started off with a bang but hadn't added any new words since turning a year old. The pediatrician didn't think I should be too concerned, saying that it's really only a problem when your 18 month old doesn't talk at all, but she did give me a referral to a (really wonderful) ENT specialist. Turns out that there was so much goo built up in Chloe's ears from her many infections that she had almost no hearing in her left ear and only 40 percent in her right ear. Poor little thing. Tubes were our only option for draining her ears and keeping them clear. I was very nervous about the anesthesia (I know someone whose daughter had a terrible reaction to it) but what could I do? My child couldn't hear. The improvement was instant. Poor Chloe startled at every noise for the first few days, but she could hear! She then spent six months in speech therapy to catch up on her language skills (our insurance covered sessions once a week at the hospital and the county provided in-home speech therapy every other week at no charge.)

Now, I don't want to give you false hope, because our daughter continued to have ear infections. Not quite as frequently, but still fairly often for the first year after getting the tubes. The big differences post tubes were that she wasn't in pain because the fluid couldn't build up pressure like it had before - the goos just kind of dribbles out of the ear with tubes (which can be kind of gross, honestly - it will ooze out overnight and cake up your child's hair, for example - ick.) But even better than the less frequent ear infections was the fact that her hearing was perfect. She caught up very quickly with speech therapy and in six months time, went from being six months behind in her speech to six months ahead of age-level. Her ear infections tapered off over time and her tubes fell out and healed over about 18 months after the surgery.

I sort of thought we were beyond all of our ear trouble until my daughter got a cold a few weeks ago. She hasn't had a single ear infection since last summer, however, about a week after her latest cold, for a variety of reasons, I started to question if she was having trouble hearing. To test my theory, my husband and I tried standing behind her and asking questions (questions we knew a four year old couldn't ignore, like "would you like to watch cartoons?" or "would you like some chocolate milk?") We got no response at all. I called the ear doctor the next morning. Turns out that both ears are really infected and one of the drums has ruptured. The doctor prescribed antibiotics. He also has me give daughter saline nose drops twice a day. And several times a day, I have to encourage my daughter to try and blow up a large balloon (which she thinks is the greatest thing ever!) The hope is that between those three measures, we can get the mucous in her ears to clear out on its own. If it doesn't clear our, we may need a second round of tubes, which I'm hoping to avoid. Not because they didn't work last time, because they did. But I hate the idea of anesthesia, even though I know it meant (and may again mean) the difference between my daughter being able to hear and not.

For the record, she did not react poorly to the anesthesia at all. In fact, she was awake (although groggy) when she came out of the operating room. She slept most of the day and night following her surgery, but really seemed to be back to her old self the very next day. And we never had any problems with the tubes.

I guess this is just my very long way of saying that, while our experience with ear tubes wasn't trouble-free (the infections didn't instantly, magically stop), they made a huge difference for our daughter. Without them, she wouldn't be able to hear or speak.

Although I wouldn't suggest tubes without trying other alternatives, they have made a huge difference with my son. He had constant ear infections and it wasn't until I questioned his speech/hearing that I checked it out. I spoke with the pediatrician and he wasn't sure whether my son was slow to speak (he was still little, about 14months), but his thoughts were to address it sooner rather than later. I had a hearing test done, and sure enough, his hearing was distorted due to the infections. He had tubes two weeks later and was out of the hospital within 2 hours. I couldn't beleive what a difference it made. Within 2 weeks, his speech and vocabulary had improved tremendously. I was so glad I made this decision. This winter has been a totally different experience free if ear infections.

If you're interested in trying alternatives before going with the surgery, try chiropractic care.

We first took our newborn son to Dr. Elise Hewitt at Portland Chiropractic Group for craniosacral therapy when we had serious nursing problems and it made an immediate difference. We've been seeing her every month since then -- and more often at times to combat his ear infections. And it's really helped us break a nasty cycle of ear infections/antibiotics/more ear infections.

Dr. Elise is kind and great with kids. And your insurance might cover it (ours does). 2031 E Burnside St
(503) 224-2100

Here's a link to a summary of research on the topic: http://www.icpa4kids.org/research/chiropractic/ear.htm

I think I have posted this information before, but here goes: My ear drum has ruptured over fifteen times due to scar tissue from childhood ear infections--allergies made them a constant. The ruptures began occurring around age eleven. When I was thirty, my ear drum had to be reconstructed due to the bone being worn away by trauma and infections. I now have a tube in my ear--Yes, at the age of forty. I have had the tube and replacements in constantly--with one break in which I got an infection--for ten years.

Try what you can, but if the infections continue to recur, put the tubes in. Seriously, my mom hesitated due to the fact that she didn't want to put me through it--I went through a lot worse not having them than I would have with them.

I had 8 ear tube surgeries by the time I was eight years old. (I'm 30 now). My eardrums have still ruptured several times. (which really, really, really hurts!). I think the thing that helped the most in getting rid of my ear infections - which I still got up until college - was cleaning up my environment. I had lots of allergies and my mom was a smoker plus I lived in a house full of cats. Now that I'm living in a smoke-free, cat-free environment, my allergies and ear problems have gotten a lot better. although I still need to wear those ear planes when I fly or drive over mountains, and I can't go swimming very deep because of the scar tissue in my ears they don't really pressurize well.

I would definitely suggest making sure allergies aren't the problem and checking out your environment. The surgeries were fine when I was little, although I did NOT do well with the anesthesia - made me vomit, dizzy, and have black outs for a day or two after. And the recovery time is quick.

Good luck with your decisions. Ear infections are the worst.

Try Craniosacral Therapy. I've heard it works wonders for ears!!!

I would definitely seek out alternative care before getting the tubes. Why they can help in certain situations, I have seen adults who have had ear tubes as kids who now have problems such as pain and not being able to scuba dive.

As a Naturopathic Physician who sees primarily children, I see lots of ear infections and for the most part they can be easily taken care of with some simple diet changes, environmental awareness, and possibly some supplements. As others have posted, craniosacral therapy is great. I second Elise Hewitt.

Yes, Craniosacral works wonders.

Also, have you eliminated dairy yet? That can have a huge impact. Good Luck!

My daughter had what seemed like an ear infection- foul smelling liquid coming from here ear. This went on for months and noone was able to properly diagnose it. We went to TONS of naturopaths who all cried allergy. An ENT thought it was colosteatoma, which is a cyst behind the eardrum. This can cause major bone deterioration in the mastoid and can even cause brain damage, so he wanted to operate. What we found was that the entire mastoid had been eaten a away by a tumor. This is not cancer, but Langerhans Cell Hystiocytosis. Now, this is very rare, but it happened to us. If your child is having chronic ear discharge and noone is diagnosing it right I would look into seeing a good specialist. Sterling Hodgeson was ours and he was amazing. Not to scare you, but it is bothersome how pediatricians AND naturopaths fail to refer to specialists even when things get out of their league.

My daughter had what seemed like an ear infection- foul smelling liquid coming from here ear. This went on for months and noone was able to properly diagnose it. We went to TONS of naturopaths who all cried allergy. An ENT thought it was colosteatoma, which is a cyst behind the eardrum. This can cause major bone deterioration in the mastoid and can even cause brain damage, so he wanted to operate. What we found was that the entire mastoid had been eaten a away by a tumor. This is not cancer, but Langerhans Cell Hystiocytosis. Now, this is very rare, but it happened to us. If your child is having chronic ear discharge and noone is diagnosing it right I would look into seeing a good specialist. Sterling Hodgeson was ours and he was amazing. Not to scare you, but it is bothersome how pediatricians AND naturopaths fail to refer to specialists even when things get out of their league.

My daughter had what seemed like an ear infection- foul smelling liquid coming from here ear. This went on for months and noone was able to properly diagnose it. We went to TONS of naturopaths who all cried allergy. An ENT thought it was colosteatoma, which is a cyst behind the eardrum. This can cause major bone deterioration in the mastoid and can even cause brain damage, so he wanted to operate. What we found was that the entire mastoid had been eaten a away by a tumor. This is not cancer, but Langerhans Cell Hystiocytosis. Now, this is very rare, but it happened to us. If your child is having chronic ear discharge and noone is diagnosing it right I would look into seeing a good specialist. Sterling Hodgeson was ours and he was amazing. Not to scare you, but it is bothersome how pediatricians AND naturopaths fail to refer to specialists even when things get out of their league.

My son had one ear infection after another from 6 months until close to 2 years of age - he got tubes last year and no infections since and he is almost 3 now. He has had draining and sometimes we need to put antibotics in his ear then, but that is the extent of it. It is an easy surgery and I highly suggest it.

Acupuncture can significantly reduce swelling and inflamation in the ear, promote drainage and increase the blood flow/healing time of ear infections. Acupuncture can also relieve the pain making life bearable for the whole family. My husband has treated many many kids with ear infections who were scheduled to get the tubes and after a few treatments their ears cleared up! There are many talented acupuncturists in the area, we are lucky to have one of them in our house!

John Motley, L.Ac.
503 665-1764
Gresham

Laurel,

As a Naturopath I always stay on the side of caution and know when to refer my patients. I am sorry you had a negative experience. What your daughter had was quite rare, even as you said. I don't think it's fair to generalize all naturopaths and pediatricians as not referring when need be.

We did the tubes after months of ear infections. It worked wonders and since the tubes, it was two years until another ear infection. they eally only lasted about 16 months or so and then they fell out on thier own. We were from constant ear infections for months to none in two years.

The tube surgury is literaly 9 minutes long, done more often under a sedation rather than general anestsia (sp?). Often kids tubes are flat until they are about age 3 or so, so the ears get more infected because of the inability to drain properly. As the child gets older the tubes start to invert more like an adults, hence the less ear infections. As previous mothers have written the constant ear infections can really delay speech, affect balance, and just be down right painful.

Good luck..

My oldest daughter, turning 3 in April, after 4 ear infections within as many months, we were sent for a tube consultation. We weren't ready to go this route without exhausting all options. We wnt to a naturopath and she took Lilly off all dairy. We switched her to rice milk (because of the estrogen mimicking possibilities of soy). She also put us on the cold wet sock routine and the garlic ear drops when a cold was coming on. We haven't had another ear infection since and it has been 1 1/2 years. When we went to see her, she had informed us that she has seen hundreds of children and only sent 2 for tubes. She also made an interesting point in asking what we were most afraid of with ear infections and it was definitely rupture and long term impacts - her point was that putting tubes in is a controlled rupture. It put things in great perspective for me and I decided at that time that I would exhaust all non-invasive options before considering tubes. But this worked for us and the family. :)

My oldest son, whp is now three and a half, has had tubes three times. The first time, he was 13 months and then one had to be replaced a month later because one of his ears was so bad it bled after his first surgery and a blood clot closed the tube. The tubes fell out and he was getting them like crazy again so at 2 1/2, he got them again and this time his adenoids came out too, which seems like the key. We have had no problems and they are talking about taking them out before summer so he can swim. His lack of hearing NEVER affected his speech, thank goodness! He was an early talker and his speech has been crystal clear!

My other son, who is 10 month, is having the same problem. His ear infections don't clear up at all. They are talking about us seeing an ENT next time.

I am 37 years old and never really had a lot of ear problems grown up, i woud say averadge, well about a year ago i moved here to minnesota from florida (i know, supos to be the other way around) well i went out on a fishing charter boat last november and it was freezing, well soon as the boat left the dock for the 6 hour trip, my ear started hurting, and not being able to just make the boat go bak to dock and me getn in sumwhere warm, i was stuk out on mill lacs lake with a really bad earache, well to cut this short, after one of the worst ear infections i can remember, it lasted a week, and then after gon away for a week it came bak, well then i started noticing a popping in my ear canal, after i tried the blowin exercises my doc recomended it still remained, and after 9 months of it, i finaly was recomended for the ear tube surgery, i was just so ready to get the poppin and pressure gon that i agreed, i had it dun a week and a half ago and my ear is not only still hurtn, it is now worse, bloodclot intube

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