Are Ear Tubes Really the Best Treatment for Chronic Ear Infections?

Dr. Payel Banik | March 18, 2021

Middle Ear Infection Basics

Many parents are all too familiar with the symptoms – and the misery – that a middle ear infection can cause for their child – the incessant crying that’s so distressing to hear, the ear tugging, the obvious pain, whether a child is old enough to express it verbally or not. In fact middle ear infections – referred to in medical terms as otitis media – are the second leading cause of urgent pediatrician visits, just behind bad colds, and almost as painful for Moms and Dads to go through as their kids.

For the children who are lucky, a middle ear infection is a one-off occurrence, the side effect of a lingering cold or an allergy perhaps, and is usually treated with fairly conservative measures. The days when the automatic prescription of antibiotics was a given are fortunately fading, as more and more pediatricians, and parents, realize that the problems the overuse of them can cause often far outweigh the benefits that might offer to a child with an ear infection.

For some kids though, otitis media is more than an occasional nuisance, and ear infections become a regularly occurring problem.  Eventually, as the child gets older, the problem will almost always go away on its own because the eustachian (ear) tubes become more vertical as a child grows, resulting in better natural drainage of fluids. That is little comfort to the parent or child, though, when ear infections are making their lives miserable right now.

Treating Chronic Ear Infections

If a child seems to be spending way too much time fighting off ear infection after ear infection it’s only natural that their parents will try to help them in any way they can. One of the often suggested measures is to have drainage tubes surgically inserted in their ears.

This procedure can, in all fairness, be quite effective, although there are no guarantees that the problem will be solved for good. And where many parents balk and worry is at the idea of their small child undergoing surgery.  Being a parent comes along with plenty of everyday worries and upsets as it is, and the thought of such a small child, their small child, on an operating table is  naturally a scary one.

The problem is that they then have to balance those fears and concerns with the agony of seeing their poor child in pain so often.  But there is an alternative that an increasing number of Moms and Dads are exploring before they agree to their child having surgery: Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT)

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment for Ear Infections?

Can OMT really help children prone to ear infections find relief? According not only to practitioner and parent experiences, but to numerous research studies, it certainly seems it can. It’s a noninvasive treatment that doesn’t hurt – if a child cries during osteopathic manipulation, it’s probably because they just don’t want to be lying down.   OMT can, along with conventional treatments, be every bit as effective as the tubes in the ears because OMT naturally enhances the body’s ability to drain the middle ear.  Is it right for every child?  Not always, but as one more avenue to explore before opting for the far more drastic surgical route it’s certainly worth considering.

Dr. Payel Banik

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