How Much Do Tubes in Ears Cost?

Written by: Staff

Inserting tubes in the ears is one of the most common outpatient procedure performed on children in the United States.  In fact, about 700,000 children each year have these tubes surgically placed to help drain fluid and relieve pressure.

Ear tubes are often considered if fluid persists in both ears for longer than three months at a time and/or when a child has well over the average number of ear infections for their age.

Also referred to as a tympanostomy tube insertion, the surgery is performed on children who have had severe ear infections that have affected their sense of hearing. The procedure treats the middle ear fluid, which, when it persists, can result in serious ear infections and/or hearing loss.

Baby Ears by atuperlu, on Flickr
Baby Ears” (CC BY 2.0) by atuperlu

How much do tubes in the ears cost?

On average, without insurance, be prepared to pay around $2,000 to as much as $7,500.  As long as your ENT doctor recommends tubes, then your health insurance policy should cover it, but be sure to check with your insurance provider to see what is going to be covered and which doctor/hospital is in the network.

On this forum thread at, for example, she was quoted $500 out of pocket, but this didn’t include the anesthesiologist or the doctor’s bill.  Wondering what the total costs would be, many members claimed they paid anywhere from $1,500 to more than $5,000.

The tub procedure, according to ABC News, is about $2,000 and can carry a few risks since the child has to be put under general anesthesia.

A member on shared her bill on this forum thread.  According to her EOB, the ENT charged $700 per year, the surgery center charged $7,486 and the anesthesia was another $525, but after all of her insurance discounts applied, the total was a pinch less than $3,000.

Tubes in the ears overview

The estimates above often include the ENT doctor, the anesthesiologist and the hospital/outpatient fees.  It’s always best to talk with the finance department before setting up an appointment to know what you’re responsible for.

Before the surgery, the patient will go under a general anesthesia, and in most cases, it will be done in an outpatient center, meaning no overnight stay is required.  Next, a small incision will be created in the eardrum, the thin layer of tissue that separates the outer and middle ear.  A smaller, plastic tube, shaped similar to that of a hollow spool is inserted into the eardrum to keep the middle drained and well ventilated.  These tubes will stay in the ear for the next six months to several years and will either fall out on their own or a doctor will remove them.

The entire procedure takes about 15 minutes.

After the procedure, the patient will be monitored by a nurse for the next few hours as they become aware of their surroundings.  Once they have fully recovered from the anesthetic, they should be able to go home.  This usually takes about 60 to 90 minutes.

What are the extra costs?

Separate fees, such as the surgeon, the hospital and/or anesthesiologist, could be billed separately, depending on the clinic’s billing policy.  Always ask for an itemized estimate before committing to the surgery.  If billed separately, plan on spending about $500 for the anesthesiologist and another $500 for the surgeon.  The hospital fees can often be north of $2,000.

An appointment, usually 14 to 28 days after the surgery, is required to check the position and function of the tubes.  This visit is often a separate charge.  Also, an audiogram is needed at some point when the ears have healed.

In the future, if the tubes don’t fall out within three years, then an appointment will be necessary to have them surgically removed.

Antibiotics, in some cases, need to be prescribed to help with infections.

How can I save money?

An outpatient surgical center will always be cheaper than a hospital.  As long as it isn’t deemed an emergency, always try to make an appointment at a local freestanding center to maximize your savings.

If you don’t have insurance, see if the facility offers a cash paying discount.

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