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Ear Tube Surgery Doesn't Harm Kids' Hearing

Procedures showed positive results 14 years later, study says

THURSDAY, April 21, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Fourteen years after their surgeries, babies who had special ventilation tubes placed in their ears to treat serious or recurrent ear infections showed no signs of hearing loss, according to a new study.

The research also found that children with more serious ear disease may require repeat ear tube placement procedures or other ear surgery.

Researchers in Finland assessed the hearing of 237 children 14 years after they had tubes inserted to treat problem ear infections. The children were 5 to 16 months old at the time of their surgeries.

Besides testing their hearing ability, the team also checked the children for quality of ear healing, history of repeat procedures, any abnormal outcomes, or whether or not they required more extensive ear surgery.

The researchers reported that, 14 years after surgery, hearing in the children's healed ears was comparable to that of normal ears in age-matched children. Nearly three-quarters (74.7 percent) of the children's ears had healed completely, up from 65.8 percent at five years following surgery.

The number of abnormal outcomes at 14 years was 25.3 percent compared with 34.2 percent at the five-year follow-up. Abnormal outcomes were more common among children whose ear infections involved accumulated fluid or those who required three or more tube insertions.

Repeated tube insertion and the need for more extensive ear surgery was more common in children with more serious ear problems, the researchers noted.

Based on the findings, they concluded that early life tube insertion, even if done repeatedly, "is a safe and useful treatment method." But they said doctors should inform parents that follow-up care may be needed, especially within the first five years following surgery.

The study appears in the April issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about ear infections and ear tube surgery.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, April 18, 2005
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