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Kids Health QA: Baby Ear Tubes

Q. At 6 months old, our baby already has an ear infection that won't clear up. The doctor is having tubes put in both his ears, to be "proactive." But does he really need tubes in both ears if he's only been infected in one?

Having an ear infection that lasts several months is one of the main reasons to use tympanostomy (or ear) tubes. Even if only one ear is infected, tubing the other ear now, too, may save a trip to the operating room down the road. It's minor surgery, and having persistent ear infections, besides being painful, can lead to medical complications as well as hearing problems and trouble with language development. Three of my children have had it done, and they were finished before I could get too worried in the waiting room.

That said, there could be other solutions besides tubes. I'd want to see whether anything might be putting your son at a higher risk of infections. I'd also want to do a hearing test; a normal result might make me want to hold off on surgery. Another thing to consider: We're coming out of cold and flu season, during which there's an increased risk of ear infections, so some specialists might recommend waiting to see how things go over the summer.

Discuss your concerns with your pediatrician and otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist). Together you can decide on the best plan for your son.