by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A man explained:

I am the father of a seven year old hard of hearing (moderate and profound) child. Recently he was diagnosed with enlarged adenoids and an Adenoidectomy was advised by the ENT. The Dr told me it would improve his hearing. My question is, in what way do adenoids affect hearing, and how will an Adenoidectomy help to improve his hearing?

Good question. The adenoids are a part of the body’s immune system in children. Therefore, it is generally not a good idea to take them out like they once did back in the 1950s because the child is then left with a somewhat weakened immune system. Incidentally, the adenoids naturally “disappear” as a child grows into a teen.

At times, the adenoids become enlarged from doing their jobs and “grabbing” any viruses that try to enter the child’s body via his nose. This is not a bad thing—they are just doing their jobs and should be left alone in my opinion.

However, sometimes the adenoids become so big that they interfere with a child’s breathing, or block the Eustachian tubes from draining properly. If this happens, doctors typically recommend taking them out. This procedure is called an Adenoidectomy. (Personally, I think you should strengthen the child’s immune system so they shrink back to their normal size.)

When the adenoids become sufficiently enlarged, they can prevent the Eustachian tubes from working properly. The result is that fluid cannot drain from the middle ears. When that happens, the child often has chronic middle ear infections. These infections fill the middle ear up with a thick mucus-like fluid. Temporary hearing loss occurs because the 3 tiny bones in the middle ear can’t vibrate freely in this “gunk”. When the fluid eventually drains away and is replaced by air, the bones again vibrate freely and hearing returns.

When doctors remove the adenoids, they no longer block the Eustachian tubes so fluid can drain from the middle ears, thus hopefully not causing bouts of temporary hearing loss.

Doctors also typically take the adenoids out if a child has too many ear infections each year. However, removing the adenoids does nothing to reduce the number of ear infections a child has. That is why I believe you should strengthen the child’s immune system in the first place, rather than removing the adenoids. The adenoids are really part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Now that you know what is going on, you can make an informed decision together with your doctor.