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
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 the operation.
As your child will be fasting prior to surgery, it is important he/she drinks plenty of fluids and has a good meal before the fast begins.
Accompanying Children into the Operating Room
One parent is permitted to accompany their child into the operating theatre until he / she is asleep. It is important to remain calm and positive since children can be affected by their parents’ energy.
You will then be escorted out of the theatre to a waiting area while I perform the operation and you will be contacted by phone as soon as your child is fully awake in recovery.
After the Surgery
If this process seems like it is taking longer than you expected, please do not worry – the experienced recovery nurses will often let your child doze and “sleep off” the anaesthetic until he / she is ready to wake up.
Your child should not be in pain immediately after this type of surgery, although crying is normal as young children can be disorientated and this is a new experience in an unfamiliar environment.
Drip (intravenous cannula)
Your child will wake up with a drip in one of their hands. 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 – he/she can still move and use that hand gently.
It will be removed by nursing staff before you are discharged from the hospital.
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.
The insertion of grommets is not usually a painful procedure. Panadol or Nurofen can be given as needed.
The recovery from grommets is usually very good and patients go home the same day. Your child can resume school / sport 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 young 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 your child is having a bath or shower and you are not washing their 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 child’s hair, use ear plugs during the bath or shower.
- Swimming with grommets is allowed after 2 weeks. If your child is going to swim, use 2 layers of protection:
The first follow up visit is usually about 6 weeks after the surgery. A postop audiogram should be performed before or at this visit.