Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Early Ear Tubes Bring Lasting Hearing Benefit

Study Shows Most Kids Have Normal Hearing 14 Years Later

WebMD Health News

April 15, 2005 -- Kids who receive ear tubes to treat ear infections have instant improvement in hearing. But what's the long-term outlook for these children?

Finnish researchers found that infants and young children who have ear tube surgery have hearing levels comparable to other children 14 years later. This is an important finding since even a slight hearing loss in childhood increases the likelihood of language and educational problems.

Ear infections are one of the most common diseases in early childhood. Children who live with smokers, attend day care, or use pacifiers may be at a higher risk of ear infections. Symptoms include pain, pulling or rubbing of the ears, high fever, vomiting, decreased appetite, and fussiness. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial ear infections.

Recurrent ear infections, however, not only cause significant pain but can also lead to hearing loss or speech delay. Ear tube surgery for recurrent ear infections -- called myringotomy -- is the most common childhood surgery in the U.S.

Ear Tubes Instantly Improve Hearing

During this surgery a small opening is made in the eardrum. Plastic, hollow ear tubes are passed through the opening to help ventilate the area behind the ear drum and drain fluid that develops in the middle ear with recurrent ear infections.

Hearing almost instantly improves. But long-term effects on hearing and thus language development are less clear.

Hannu Valtonen, MD, PhD, and colleagues followed 237 children for 14 years after ear tube surgery. The children were between 5 and 16 months old at the time of surgery.

Many children treated early in life with ear tubes require frequent checkups or continued treatment because of repeated ear infections. But at the end of the 14-year study 75% of the children's ears had completely healed. This was up from 66% when the researchers evaluated the children five years after ear tube placement.

Hearing in the kids with completely healed ears was the same as children with normal hearing.

Valtonen, who is at the Central Hospital of Central Finland in Jyvaskyla, published his study in the April issue of Archives of Otolaryngology.

Outlook Not as Good for Some

But the outlook wasn't quite so good for kids whose eardrums had not completely healed or who continued to have recurrent ear infections after ear tube surgery.

In those kids hearing loss was still evident, but it was generally mild. Some kids needed repeat ear tube surgery and they also tended to have some hearing loss.

The researchers say their results show that ear tube surgery early in life is safe and useful for preserving hearing as a child grows and develops.

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration