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This is not a term that should cause worry.  Simply put, a myringotomy is a type of surgical procedure where the doctor will make a tiny incision right in the eardrum in order to relieve the pressure that can be caused by pus or fluid building up in the middle ear.  There will be a tympanostomy tube put into the eardrum in order to ensure that the middle ear remains aerated for a longer period of time and also to prevent there being any further fluid buildup.  This type of procedure can be performed on one or both ears.

While typically, this is a procedure that is done on toddlers, it can also be necessary in adults.  This type of procedure is a temporary solution due to the fact that the tubes inserted can fall out, but if it is necessary, it can be repeated.  It is typically done in a hospital setting.

When is it Necessary?

A myringotomy is typically done when there is an infection in the middle ear in which there is fluid present.  When this infectious fluid gets built up behind your ear drum, it can be very thick and can even interfere with the ability to hear and in some cases with children, can actually slow the development of their speech.  This is especially true when the infection is in both of the child’s ears.

Reasons to Have a Myringotomy

  • If there is a malformation of the ear that is congenital – such as seen with Down’s Syndrome or a cleft palette
  • Barotrauma, which is damage that is caused by changes in air pressure – such as seen with flying or scuba diving
  • Acute otitis media (AOM) – ear infection – that is repetitive and does not respond to antibiotics and as a result impairs hearing, speech or both
  • An infection in the middle ear that causes speech delays or loss of hearing
  • An ear infection that is not responding to ear medications and/or antibiotics

After a Myringotomy

Once this procedure has been done, the amount of fluid that can build up in the middle ear is drastically reduced.  This means that there will be less pain and less hearing impairment.  In many cases, the tubes will naturally fall out within 6 to 18 months and during this time, the ears should be protected from water.  This is easily accomplished with ear plugs when participating in water activities or swimming.