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Need For Ear Tubes Questioned

When kids get inner ear infections, doctors often put drainage tubes in their ears right away. The idea is to prevent hearing loss, which could lead to developmental problems.

But, reports The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay, a new study argues there's no need for that rush treatment.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of young children get those infections, Senay explains. In fact, otitis media, which is the medical term for inflammation in the middle ear (commonly referred to as an inner ear infection), is the most commonly diagnosed illness in children, after colds.

And youngsters who have recurring inner ear problems frequently have ear tubes inserted.

They are tiny plastic tubes shaped like a hollow spool, and are commonly used to relieve the symptoms of persistent middle ear effusion, which is essentially fluid in the inner ear, and to prevent future ear infections.

The tubes are inserted through a small hole in the eardrum while the child is under general anesthesia. The procedure has become one of the most commonly performed operations of any kind.

Once inserted, they relieve some of the symptoms of inner ear infections by enabling air to enter the middle ear and fluid to flow out.

If an ear infection is affecting a child's hearing, which often happens, ear tubes can restore hearing and prevent future buildup of fluid in the middle ear.

If a child complains of pain in the ears, the tubes can decrease that feeling of pressure in the ears, therefore decreasing pain.