Earplugs are synthetic tubes that are inserted into the eardrum to keep the middle ear ventilated and allow excess fluid to drain. This procedure is often used in young children who are more prone to ear fluid buildup and recurrent ear infections.
Fluid in the ear (otitis media) occurs when the Eustachian tube is blocked, trapping fluid in it. Causes of otitis media include:
- Enlarged adenoids, turbinates, or sinus tissue
- The horizontal position of the Eustachian tube in children is prone to accumulation of debris and fluid
How to insert the earplugs
Although surgical insertion of the earplugs only takes about 15 minutes, general anesthesia is usually required. This helps ensure that the patient is completely still while the surgeon makes a small incision in the eardrum (called a myringotomy).
The surgery consists of several steps:
- You will usually be instructed to stop eating and drinking starting at midnight on the day of surgery. This will help avoid reflux of gastric contents under sedation.
- During your preoperative exam, the nurse will measure your blood pressure and oxygen levels and ask about any medications you may be taking.
- You may also meet with an anaesthetist to discuss any previous anaesthesia experience you may have had. An IV line is then placed by a nurse or anesthesiologist.
- Once you are sedated, a myringotomy is performed and any accumulated fluid is vacuumed out.
- The earbuds will be placed into the small holes in the eardrum.
- Antibiotic drops will then be given to help prevent infection.
The earbuds do not require stitching, but are held in place by the eardrum itself. In children, they usually shed on their own within six to nine months.
For adults, earplugs may stay on for longer, especially for those with recurring ear infections. In this case, the grommet will have a special flange to hold it securely.A second surgery is then required to remove it later.
Most people experience no significant pain after a myringotomy. If needed, Tylenol (acetaminophen) can be used to help relieve any discomfort.
On the other hand, it is not uncommon to experience dizziness, nausea, or headaches after general anesthesia.Therefore, driving or operating heavy machinery should be avoided for 24 to 48 hours after surgery.
Antibiotic ear drops may be prescribed for the first few days. You may also be asked to avoid submerging your head in water until fully recovered, or at least be asked to wear earplugs while swimming, showering, or bathing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who needs earplugs?
Younger children, especially those at higher risk for ear infections or fluid build-up in the ear, may need earplugs. Less commonly, adults can also receive earplugs.
What are the earplugs like?
The earbuds look like small, brightly colored tubes with a hole in the middle. They are carefully inserted into the eardrum.
Do earplugs hurt?
Ear clasps are not considered painful in most cases. In the worst case, there may be mild discomfort after undergoing a myringotomy or surgery to insert an ear hole. Tylenol can be used to relieve this discomfort.