Ear Tube Surgeries: Tips and Tricks from Moms


ear tube

Between my three children, we’ve had four ear tube surgeries. When our oldest son needed ear tubes, we were terrified. The prospect of our almost two-year-old undergoing surgery was overwhelming. It was our first major medical concern and we didn’t know what to expect. We quickly learned that ear tubes are the most common surgical procedure for an ENT surgeon.

About Ear Tubes

Ear tubes are exactly what they sound like. They are small tubes placed in the ear drum to assist with draining fluid. There are many reasons kids need ear tube surgery. The most common reasons are:

  • Recurrent ear infections
  • To drain fluid that may be contributing to or causing ear infections
  • To restore hearing that may be affected by fluid

Ear tube surgery typically lasts about thirty minutes. This surgery can be done in the hospital or at an outpatient surgery center. Most kids are given an oral medication while in the pre-operative room to relax them and then given a gas to put them to sleep. The surgeon places the tubes via the ear canal and there are no stitches or incisions that are visible. Most kids return to normal within hours of ear tube surgery and can return to normal activity the following day. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin can provide more details about ear tube surgery as well.

I am confident that ear tube surgery was more difficult for us than our children. We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks from the MKE Mom’s Blog contributors to help before, during, and after the procedure.

Before surgery

  • Judge when the best time is to tell your kiddo. Some need to know a few days in advance, some the night before, and some the morning of.
  • Explain to your child (in an age appropriate manner) what is going to happen during the day. We made sure to highlight the things that were fun, like having popsicles for breakfast and wearing PJs to the hospital.
  • Write down your list of questions. We recommend keeping a list in your phone. You can quickly add to it when you think of a question and then write down the answers.
  • For older kids, consider a tour of the hospital. Most children’s hospitals offer this opportunity to help ease any anxiety.
  • Clarify when you can expect to hear from pre-op services with the time you’ll need to come to the hospital on the day of surgery.
  • Make any post-op appointments.
  • Make arrangements for your other kids to ensure you can focus on the child having surgery.
  • Make sure you have your child’s favorite foods on hand. We allowed free access to popsicles and clear soda/sports drinks on the day of surgery.

Morning of surgery

  • Remind your child of how the day is going to go.
  • Leave for the hospital with plenty of time so any traffic or parking troubles don’t cause you to be late.
  • Pack a snack to eat while your child is in surgery. You likely won’t eat before they go into surgery and you’ll notice how hungry you are once in the waiting room.
  • Consider purchasing new PJs to make the morning exciting.
  • Plan distractions. We relaxed all of our screen time rules and purchased a few small toys for distractions.
  • Pull out surprises during restless moments. We did things like a few small containers of play doh, card games, small action figures. We wrapped these as individual gifts because most kids love opening presents.
  • Write down the answers to your questions.
  • Make sure to keep your post-op directions.

After surgery

  • Plan a quiet day at home for the day of the surgery.
  • Watch for any complications listed on the post-op directions.
  • Keep a new list of questions.
  • Keep all follow-up appointments.

It’s easy to say not to worry about ear tube surgery, that it’s easy and routine. But we know you’re worried because we were worried. Remember to make a plan for the days surrounding surgery and take a deep breath. You’ve got this!


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