What are grommets?
Grommets are tiny plastic or metal tubes that are inserted into the eardrums to treat conditions that affect the middle ear, such as recurrent middle ear infections and glue ear. Glue ear is the build-up of fluid in the middle ear which may affect hearing. This typically affects young children as their ability to equalise for pressure in the middle ear is compromised by their anatomy. This improves as they get older, so grommets are inserted to replace this function until the body can equalise for pressure by itself (through the eustachian tube).
How does the procedure work?
In children, this procedure is performed under general anaesthetic, while in adults it can be done under local anaesthetic. A small incision (myringotomy) is made in the eardrum to allow any fluid to be removed using a suction and the grommet (small plastic or metal tube) is then inserted into the eardrum. Grommets allow fluid to drain from the middle ear as well as allowing air to enter. It is a short surgical procedure and patients are usually discharged on the same day.
Why is it performed?
Grommets are most commonly used to help children who suffer with recurrent ear infections or prolonged glue ear. Glue ear can lead to hearing problems and subsequently may affect language development in young children. Grommets may be recommended if a middle ear problem continues for over 3 months or recurs in a patient.
What can I expect after the surgery?
Most patients recover well after having grommets inserted. You doctor will recommend that ears are kept dry during showering or bathing to avoid the risk of developing ear infections. This can be done by using earplugs or cotton wool at these times. Swimming should be avoided for the first few weeks after the procedure and earplugs should be worn after this. Your doctor should be consulted if there is any pain or discharge from the ear/s that lasts a few days as this may be due to infection.