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Tympanostomy Tube Home Care Instructions

Function of Tympanostomy Tubes

The function of a tympanostomy tube (ear tube) is to equalize pressure in the middle ear. Equalizing the pressure will reduce the frequency of ear infections. Tympanostomy tubes are very small (about the size of a grain of rice), and there is no pain associated with the insertion of ear tubes. When tympanostomy tubes are inserted in the eardrum, fluid in the middle ear will be removed. Slight drainage or bleeding may be seen for a few days. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops to be used in the ears after surgery.

Follow Up After Tube Insertion

The first follow up appointment will be in our office by one of our nurse practitioners two to four weeks after the tubes are inserted. The ears should be kept reasonably dry until that visit. Ear putty or cotton balls with Vaseline placed on the outside of the cotton ball may be inserted in the ear canal during bathing or washing the hair.

Tympanostomy tubes should be checked for function and placement every three months in either our or the pediatrician’s office. The tubes usually become loose and move into the ear canal after six months and up to two years. They may come out sooner, or may stay in longer. This is a natural and gradual process which allows for the eardrum to heal as it occurs. When the tubes move to the opening of the ear canal, they can be removed in our office or they may simply fall out on their own.

Water Precautions

Patients may swim in chlorinated pool water and bathe in clean bath water without earplugs. Earplugs should be used if the patient is swimming in a lake, river, pond or ocean, or is going under more than four feet of water, due to the increased bacteria in the water. Diving is discouraged. These water precautions may vary depending on your surgeon. Pre-sized earplugs and custom-made ear molds are available in our office.

Treatment of Ear Infections After Tympanostomy Tubes

Tympanostomy tubes help lower the number of ear infections. If an ear infection develops, the tubes will allow the infection to drain. If you see drainage from the ear, you may start either Floxin or Ciprodex ear drops, 4-6 drops in the affected ear, twice a day for 7 days. Once the 7 day course is finished, you should follow up with your pediatrician to ensure that the infection has resolved. The ears should be kept dry if they are draining. Be sure to take your prescribed antibiotic ear drops with you on vacation.


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