Chronic Ear Infections: Antibiotics, Tubes, and Adenoids

My older son drew the short end of the stick when it comes to ears. Both my husband and my dad had horrid ear problems. And by that I mean ear infections. My mother-in-law tells me that my husband got an ear infection with every cold until he was five. My dad dealt with ear problems until he finally had corrective surgery when he was 17. Me? I’ve never had an ear infection in my life.

My oldest got his first ear infection when he was four months old. We were new parents and had no idea why our infant was up all night SCREAMING with a fever. I fought every instinct in me to take him to the emergency room because clearly he was dying. At the doctor first thing the next morning, his ears were the first thing they checked, and so it began.

chronic ear infections

By the time he was five months old, my son weaned himself from nursing. At first I couldn’t figure out why, but after talking to a lactation consultant, we think it had something to do with the constant pressure behind his ears. (If you’re not familiar, when you have pressure behind your ears, it is magnified when you lay back.) We think he was associating nursing with the pain and therefore would only take a bottle in an upright position. A year and a half later this theory was reinforced when our doctor discovered he had constant fluid sitting behind his ear, which creates pressure.

At seven months, he got his second ear infection, and by the time he was 9.5 months old he had been on eight different rounds of antibiotics. At this point, no one had slept in a really long time. Every time he would get an ear infection, he would start a new round of antibiotics. We would take him in for a recheck once they were done, and 1-2 weeks later the ear infection would be back.
After the third ear infection, we were referred to an ENT (Ears, Nose, Throat doctor – also known as an otolaryngolist). By the time the appointment actually happened, I think he had two more ear infections (I lost count). The doctor immediately offered us tubes, and to be honest, I wasn’t leaving the office until he did. Three weeks and a canceled surgery later (due to another fever from another ear infection), the tubes were in.

Snuggles during yet another ear infection
Snuggles during yet another ear infection

And we all slept for the first time in months.

Once we hit the two year mark with my son’s tubes, our doctor recommended we remove them and see how things went. We did, and three weeks later on Easter Sunday…another ear infection. This time it ruptured his left ear drum. Because it was Easter Sunday, we had no choice but to take him to the Emergency Room since urgent care clinics were closed that day. I’ve never experienced an ear drum rupture, but judging by how loud and fiercely my oldest screamed, it can’t be pleasant. Then it was followed by a couple of days of bleeding from the ear, which was slightly unnerving for myself.

So, long story short, we went in for our second set of tubes and an adenoidectomy about a month ago. This surgery took slightly longer to recover from since they also removed the adenoids. We opted to remove the adenoids in addition to the tubes for a few reasons. Number one: when the adenoids are removed, the incidence of ear infections after the tubes fall out is lower. So we are hopeful this will be his last ear-related surgery. Additionally, my son snored. LOUD. Snoring can affect the quality of sleep one gets, in addition to heightening risk factors for other health issues, and removing adenoids can reduce snoring.

In addition to his snoring, my son’s hearing was also taking a beating – his hearing has been continuously tested and a couple of times was not at 100%. And if that wasn’t enough, my son had a speech delay that he was diagnosed with at 22 months, and the constant fluid muffling his hearing was not helping him learn his words.

Ready for our first set of tubes
Ready for our first set of tubes

Before I continue, please know neither my husband or myself took this decision lightly. I know there are other homeopathic methods that work for some families. For us, my son’s continued exposure to antibiotics was not something we wanted to continue. His ear infections were bacterial, and he needed antibiotics to rid them. Taken together (the ear infections, snoring, reduced hearing, and speech delay), it was clear we needed to take action.

Tubes and an adenoidectomy is not for everyone, but for us it has provided some much needed relief from on-going health issues, and honestly, my son is happier. His snoring has pretty much disappeared, and I can tell a huge difference in his hearing. (Although, he still has that selective hearing all two-year-olds seem to have.)

The best part? The day he started to feel better following the second surgery, his language took off. We just had his reassessment with his speech teacher, and he gained two years of speech in under one year. We saw a huge jump just in the last month. This alone has been the biggest blessing out of our entire journey.

Here is my advice if you are battling chronic ear infections:

  • Talk to your child’s primary care doctor about your options
  • If you research yourself, be sure you utilize reputable sources
  • Get your child’s hearing tested
  • If you’re concerned about your child’s speech development, reach out to Grant Wood AEA. They offer free assessments and resources for a variety of things, including delayed speech development.

Have your kids had lots of ear infections? How did you handle it?


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