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JAMA Otolaryngology Patient Page
October 15, 2020

What Are Ear Tubes?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Children’s National Medical Center, Department of Otolaryngology. Washington, DC
  • 2George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Washington, DC
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2021;147(1):116. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.2753

Ear tubes are tiny pieces of plastic or metal that create an opening in the eardrum.

The eardrum separates the middle ear space from the ear canal. The tube connects the middle ear and the ear canal. This allows fluid that builds up in the middle ear, including ear infections, to drain into the ear canal instead of causing fever, pain, and decreased hearing. The ear tubes are very small (1/20th of an inch) and cannot be seen from outside the ear (Figure). They are usually not permanent.

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