Ear Tubes Not Always Needed
Treating Buildup of Middle-Ear Fluid With Tubes May Not Improve Developmental Issues
WebMD News Archive
Earlier findings from the study were so convincing that they prompted a
change in guidelines regarding the treatment of kids with persistent middle-ear
Doctors are now urged to take a watch-and-wait approach to treatment, which
includes frequent hearing assessments.
If a hearing loss of 40 decibels or higher is documented or language delays
are seen, tubes are recommended.
Pediatric medicine expert Stephen Berman, MD, says the study by Paradise and
colleagues should serve to reassure parents of children with persistent
middle-ear fluid buildup.
"Parents often want tubes because they are worried about developmental
delays," he says.
Berman, who is a pediatrician at Children's Hospital in Denver, tells WebMD
that as many as 70% to 80% of children who get tubes in the U.S. have
persistent fluid buildup without repeated infections.
"About 400,000 tubes are put in a year [in the U.S.] at a cost of
between $3,500 and $5,000 each," he says. "I would think that maybe
half of these surgeries could be avoided. That money could be redirected to
interventions that would actually impact child development."
Such programs would include those designed to promote language and learning
skills among low-income children, he says.
"We know that poverty is independently associated with an increased risk
for language and learning delays and these kinds of ear problems," he says.
"The interpretation has been that the [ear problems] were causing the
learning delays. But we now know that this is not true."