An ear tube (also called a tympanostomy tube) is frequently used to help children who have chronic ear infections.  The procedure can also be helpful for adults, although the surgery is not as common as it is in younger patients.

What Happens During Ear Tube Surgery?

During this procedure, called a myringotomy, a small incision is made in the eardrum. Then an ear tube – also called a PE tube—is inserted to help equalize pressure and drain any fluid that has become trapped behind the eardrum. The tubes typically fall out within nine months as the incision heals although some may need to be removed by a doctor

Following are some indications that you should schedule an appointment with our Raleigh ENT physicians to determine the cause and best course of treatment for your situation.

Do You Need Ear Tubes?

If you have these five symptoms, ear tubes may be in your future.

  1. Chronic, persistent ear infections despite treatment.

This is one of the most common reasons for ear tube surgery. When the ear does not drain properly, it can cause swelling and sets the stage for an infection. If not treated in a timely manner, this chronic condition can cause hearing loss.

  1. You have abnormal or narrow Eustachian tubes.

One reason that so many children have ear infections is that their Eustachian tubes are not fully developed. These narrow tubes go from the middle ear to the back of the throat and are necessary to regulate pressure and drain fluid from the middle ear. In most adults, the Eustachian tubes function normally, but sometimes, they do not develop properly, leading to chronic ear infections.

  1. You’ve experienced barotrauma.

Barotrauma occurs when there is a change in air pressure (or water pressure) that damages the ear and causes extensive pain. This is most often seen in those who fly (referred to as “airplane ear”) and SCUBA divers, according to information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine

While this can often be treated with decongestants, sometimes the ear is damaged and a myringotomy is needed to alleviate the pressure.

  1. You have experienced hearing loss.

Adults who experience hearing loss often need a hearing aid, but in some cases, hearing loss is due to a problem with fluid behind the ear that was never diagnosed when they were younger, according to information from the National Institute of Health

  1. You have balance issues.

There are different reasons for balance issues, which is why it’s important for one of our Raleigh Capitol ENT doctors in Raleigh to provide a thorough examination to be sure you’re not suffering from vertigo. However, sometimes balance problems can be caused by issues with pressure in the middle ear, and a tympanostomy tube may help.

Raleigh Capitol ENT Provides Compassionate Care and Earache Relief

For decades, we’ve treated both adults and children for a wide range of inner ear problems from chronic ear infections to dizziness and vertigo. Our physicians have more than 200 years of combined expertise and experience to make them the regional leaders in state-of-the-art ear, nose and throat treatment. If you have any of the symptoms discussed in this article, we encourage you to schedule an appointment today.

More Useful Information on Ear Tubes and Ear Infections

You’ll enjoy exploring our other informative articles:

Ear Tubes

How One Procedure Can Save Your Son or Daughter From Childhood Ear Infections 

Why Do Children Get So Many Ear Infections? 

How Are Ear Tubes Removed (and Do They Get Stuck?) 


Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose, and Throat is the area's premiere physician-owned ENT practice with six convenient locations throughout Wake County. Our board-certified physicians have extensive experience in treating both common and complex cases to help adults and children alike. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us.


Brenman, AK, et. al. Am Fam Physician. 1982 Oct;26(4):181-4. Online abstract.

ONeill OJ, Frank AJ. Diving, Ear Barotrauma. [Updated 2018 Oct 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet].

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Prophylaxis against middle ear barotrauma in US hyperbaric oxygen therapy centers

Capes, James P et al. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, Volume 14, Issue 7, 645 – 648

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Barotrauma.” Online.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Ear Infections.” Online.