EAR, NOSE & THROAT
Eustachian tubes are a crucial structure in the middle ear that connects the middle ear to the pharynx. Their purpose is to help drain fluids from the ear. They also assist in regulating air pressure in the ears. Flying in airplanes and climbing high altitudes makes you realize how much pressure affects your ears. When you yawn, swallow or chew gum, it temporarily opens up the Eustachian tubes and equalizes the pressure between the middle and outside of the ears. If these tubes are blocked, that can be a real problem for both drainage and ear pressure. When fluid is built up, it creates the ideal atmosphere for bacteria and generates ear infections.
As an adult, you typically will not have ear infections, but they can happen. According to LifeScripts, 95% of children will have an ear infection before the age of 7. Why are ear infections so prevalent in children? The main reason for this is that a child’s Eustachian tubes are more horizontal and narrow than adults. With the tubes being so narrow, fluid does not drain as quickly and efficiently. As you get older, the tubes will become more vertical; but while they are in a more horizontal position, fluid does not drain effectively. Fluid may settle in the tubes longer than normal and build up. Another reason for this is that children tend to pick up germs much easier than adults. If you have children, especially in daycare, you will find that they are sick quite a bit. They tend to put things in their mouth that doesn’t belong and seem to be fond of sharing germs with one another. Kids are notorious for coming in contact with germs. These germs then lead to colds and the flu. These colds cause mucus build up that unfortunately affects the ears. The fluid in the ears leads to pain and pressure and more times than not an ear infection.
Just because you or your child has an ear infection does not mean you should get ear tubes. Ear tubes are only used in instances where there are frequent fluid build up and recurrent ear infections. They may also be used when children seem to have trouble hearing and have speech delays. Children cannot express themselves the way adults do, so parents have to be aware of changes in their child’s behavior and development.
As an adult, you may not even remember what it feels like to have an ear infection so it may be difficult to understand whether or not your child is having one. Some signs to take note of would be ear pulling and increased irritability. When a child has pain, they tend to mess with the area they are feeling the pain. The child will also have a fever and lethargy. If these symptoms are a common occurrence, it may be necessary to talk with your pediatrician about ear tubes.
Ear Tube Placement
Ear tubes are placed through the eardrum. The eardrum is not a solid structure or bone but a membrane. The membrane can be punctured to allow the tubes to go through. The purpose of the tubes helps with drainage and ventilation. Since Eustachian tubes have the purpose of both ventilation and drainage, when you have an ear infection, they do not function properly; therefore, the ear tubes are placed to help them do their job. Ear tubes are not a permanent form of treatment. They are either removed or fall out. They do not fall out right away; it takes, at least, six months. Sometimes tubes have to be replaced after removal. Ear tube placement risk is very low. The risk may include bleeding, excessive ear drainage, and infection.
Ear tubes are a common way to treat recurring ear infections and hearing loss in children. It is a quick surgery that has a very low risk. In adults, you will not have nearly as many ear infections if you have any at all. The Eustachian tubes in adults have more of a vertical position and are wider. Adults with allergies and sinus issues are more susceptible to ear infections. Therefore, it is best to take allergy medicine regularly. Children, on the other hand, should be monitored for recurring ear infections. If you think your child has an ear infection, make sure they see their physician. When ear infections become a common trend, ear tubes may be the best treatment. The best part is that they are temporary and as a child grows ear infections will more than likely no longer be a problem.
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