Grommets

Introduction

Grommets are small tubes that are inserted into the ear drums (tympanic membranes) to ventilate the middle ear spaces. They are generally inserted when patients have had recurrent middle ear infections or when they have been troubled by hearing loss that is due to fluid collecting in the middle ears.

Prior to inserting grommets, all patients should have an audiogram (hearing test).

Before the Surgery

Reading Materials

Please read this page and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ information sheet (“Treatment with grommets”) so you understand the procedure, the benefits and risks associated with this procedure and the expected outcomes of surgery. The information sheet will be given to you when booking your operation.

Fasting

As you will be fasting prior to surgery, it is important you drink plenty of fluids and have a good meal before the fast begins.

After the Surgery

Drip (intravenous cannula)

You will wake up with a drip in one hand. The needle of the drip has been removed and what is left is simply a plastic tube to deliver fluids or medications through this route - you can still move and use that hand gently. It will be removed by nursing staff before you are discharged from the hospital.

Diet

There are no specific dietary restrictions following this surgery. Once the anaesthetic has worn off, your child can have their favourite foods and drinks, as tolerated.

Pain Relief

The insertion of grommets is not usually a painful procedure. Panadol or Nurofen can be given as needed.

Expected Recovery

The recovery from grommets is usually very good and patients go home the same day. You can resume normal activities once the anaesthetic has worn off – a minimum of 24 hours is recommended.

You may notice some clear fluid or blood-stained fluid leaking out the ears – especially on the day of surgery or the day after. This should not cause you to worry and can be gently wiped away with a tissue – do not use cotton buds.

Some younger children may hold their ears after surgery. This is usually not due to pain but rather due to an improvement in hearing where noises initially seem louder to them. This should settle as they adjust.

Flying is permitted with grommets.

Keeping the Ears Dry

There is mixed evidence about how much one needs to keep their ears dry following grommets.

My recommendation is as follows:

  • If you are having a bath or shower and you are not washing your hair, no ear plugs are necessary. If a few splashes of water get into the ears there is no need to be concerned.
  • If you are washing your hair, use ear plugs during the bath or shower.
  • Swimming with grommets is allowed after 2 weeks. Use 2 layers of protection:
    • Ear plugs (e.g. soft silicone or putty) can be purchased at most pharmacies, or from my rooms in the CBD.
    • A swimming cap or band covering the ears – for example Little Grommets or Ear Jobs.

Follow Up

The first follow up visit is usually about 6 weeks after the surgery. A postop audiogram should be performed before or at this visit.

Related Information

Ear infections
Hearing loss