Ear tubes for children may be unnecessary

For people in several generations, ear tubes were almost a childhood rite of passage. But new research says they may not be necessary for all children. Many children suffer from chronic middle ear infections, in which fluid builds up in the middle ear. One way of treating this problem is with tubes inserted in the ear canal that allow fluid to drain away. Doctors believed that by doing this, they helped children hear better, which gave them a better chance of developing language skills on a normal schedule. But researchers in Pennsylvania found that in most cases, waiting awhile to see if the condition cleared up without tubes caused no developmental delays or problems. Doctors looked at nearly 500 children with fluid buildup in their ears. One group had tubes put in immediately. With the others, doctors took a wait-and-see approach, putting the tubes in only if the fluid didn’t go away within six to nine months. All the children were given language and hearing tests. Doctors found there was no difference between the children who got tubes immediately and those who waited. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say “wait and see” can be the best approach for dealing with middle ear problems. In most cases, the child outgrows the problem. Antibiotics and surgery may fix the problem quickly, but there are risks associated with these treatments. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for your child.

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