Swimming and tympanostomy tubes: A prospective study


  • From the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center, Panorama City, CA.

  • Presented at the 70th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Coast Oto-Ophthalmological Society, June 30, 1986, Maui, HI.


To prevent ear infection, many physicians advise their patients to avoid water after insertion of tympanostomy tubes. This advice is a logical extension of the supposition that contaminated water entering the middle ear through the tube may cause an infection.

While tympanostomy tubes have been in widespread use for over 30 years, very few prospective clinical trials have evaluated their use while swimming. This study evaluated 85 patients with tympanostomy tubes divided into three groups: swimming without earplugs, swimming with earplugs, and no swimming. The infection rates were 16%, 30%, and 30% in the three groups, respectively. We conclude that swimming without earplugs does not result in an increased incidence of middle ear infections.