Caring for your child after grommet surgery

You’ve booked your child in to have grommets inserted, now what? Here’s what you can expect as they recover.

Grommets are tiny tubes that are inserted into the eardrum to let air in and help fluid drain from the middle ear. They might be recommended if your child has glue ear (fluid build-up that gets trapped in the middle ear) which is causing hearing loss, or frequent ear infections.

Grommets can help improve hearing and prevent language and speech problems, as well as ear infections. They are usually only recommended if glue ear is impacting hearing or speech or causing frequent infections. If your child is getting grommets, read on for tips on how to prepare and care for your child after surgery.


Doctor looking into child's ear

What happens during the procedure?

The surgery to insert grommets usually takes about 15 minutes. Your child will be given a general anaesthetic before the tubes are inserted into their eardrum. Most children can head home in a few hours.

Prepare well for a smooth recovery

Preparing well can help make your child’s surgery less stressful for both of you. It can also help avoid complications in hospital and during recovery.

Read more about how to prepare for your child’s hospital visit. 

What to expect after surgery

Most children recover quickly and are back to their normal activities the next day. Usually, there’s no pain or soreness.

Hearing usually improves right away as well, so don’t be surprised if your child suddenly finds everything too loud! It usually only takes a few days for them to get used to it.

You might notice fluid or a small amount of blood coming from their ear for a day or two after the surgery (this tends to happen if their ear is especially swollen). You can clean around the outside of the ear but don’t poke anything into the ear canal.

If your child does experience some mild discomfort, paracetamol should be enough to take care of it. Don’t give them aspirin as this increases the risk of bleeding.

Ask your child’s doctor if you need to prevent water from getting into your child’s ear. In most cases this isn’t necessary, but if it’s important for your child, the doctor might suggest they use ear plugs or putty when they swim or bathe.

The grommets will usually fall out on their own in 6 months to a year—though it can take up to 18 months. You might not even realise they’ve fallen out.

Follow-up appointments

You’ll need to take your child for an initial follow-up to make sure the grommets are sitting in the right place, any fluid is draining and to assess their hearing. Your doctor will let you know how often you’ll need to come back. It’s important to attend these even if your child seems fine—the tube can become blocked, shift positions or fall out, so your doctor will check to make sure everything is working properly and their hearing is improving.

Warning signs to watch out for

Your child might experience some of the symptoms below if a grommet moves, becomes blocked, falls out too early or doesn’t drain properly. Treatments are available, for example, your doctor may prescribe drops to unblock a tube or clear up discharge.

When to contact your doctor or hospital

There are a number of warning signs to look out for after having grommets inserted. Contact your doctor or the hospital if your child has:

  • Discharge from their ear for more than a day or two after surgery. This can be a sign of infection, even if they don’t feel particularly ill.
  • A fever (temperature over 38 C).
  • Difficulty hearing.
  • Dizziness, or they are losing their balance and/or falling.
  • Pain in their ear that doesn’t go away or gets worse.

Eligible members can also call 24/7 Medibank Nurse to speak to a registered nurse on 1800 644 325.  This service is available 24/7 at no cost for Medibank members with hospital cover.

Looking for something else?

Visit our Hospital Assist homepage for a range of tools and advice to help you at every stage of your hospital journey.

Things you need to know

~ OSHC members should call the Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283.

While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. It is not health advice, and is not tailored to meet your individual health needs. You should always consult a trusted health professional before making decisions about your health care. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees).