PE Tubes for Ear Infections

Question

My son has had his PE tubes for three years. I recently read that leaving the tubes in for more than two years may result in scarring or damage to the eardrum. Can you give me any additional information?

Dr. Greene's Answer

The average length for most types of PE tubes to stay in is about nine months, but this length varies depending on the kind of tube used. They sometimes stay there a good bit longer.

Generally, the tubes should be allowed to fall out on their own. If they don’t, they may have to be removed. Most ear specialists wait at least 2 years before considering surgical removal of a tube.

About 15 percent of kids who have tubes in for several years will have a small hole left that takes a while to close on its own. About 1 or 2 percent will have a hole that doesn’t close. Some of them need a simple surgery to close it.

The scarring that people talk about is cosmetic and inside the ear. It doesn’t generally affect hearing at all.

Medical Review on: April 21, 2008
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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