Questions and Answers – Ventilation Tubes Ear Infections

Why are ventilation tubes needed?

A child’s Eustachian tubes sometimes can't drain fluid away from the middle ear into the throat very well. If fluid builds up behind the eardrum, bacteria can grow. This is how ear infections begin. After an ear infection is gone, fluid often remains behind the eardrum.

A very small ear ventilation tube (vent tube) is put into the eardrum to allow fluid drainage and help prevent further infections.

Normal ear

Detail - Normal ear

What is the Eustachian tube?

The Eustachian tube is a canal that runs from the middle part of each ear to the back of the throat. It does two things. First, it keeps the air pressure inside the middle ear the same as the air pressure outside the ear. This helps a person hear better. Second, it helps fluid from the middle ear drain into the throat.

Infected middle ear

Detail - Infected middle ear

In young children, the Eustachian tube is smaller, narrower, and more horizontal. This makes it easier for germs to move from the throat to the ear and for the tube to become blocked. Most children stop having ear infections around age 6 because their Eustachian tubes are more fully developed.

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Is a ventilation tube (vent tube) the same thing as a grommet?

Yes, a grommet is a generic term for a ventilation tube.

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When should a ventilation tube be used?

A vent tube is usually recommended if a child has several of the following conditions:

  • There's been fluid in the middle ear continuously for over 4 months
  • There's fluid in both ears
  • Recurrent ear infections haven’t responded to continuous antibiotic treatment for several months

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Any further questions should be discussed with a doctor or ENT specialist.