Ear tubes or ventilation tubes are inserted for three reasons: persistent middle ear fluid associated with significant hearing loss, frequently occurring middle ear infections and severe Eustachian tube dysfunction. The purpose of these tubes is to temporarily replace the function of the Eustachian tube so that the middle ear is properly ventilated and allow air pressure to equilibrate with atmospheric pressure. Although, over the years, many different types and shapes of ear tubes have been developed, they all serve the same purpose and all will eventually be extruded spontaneously by the body.
In adults, tubes can be inserted in the office using local or topical anesthesia. Tube insertion in children, which is more common, frequently requires a light general anesthetic and is usually performed in an outpatient environment such as a surgical center.
Since they were first used in the 1950’s, ventilation tubes have prevented a number on middle ear complications such as mastoiditis (infection in the mastoid bone), otitic meningitis (a middle ear infection that has spread to the brain) and cholesteatoma (a benign mastoid tumor).