Can my child go swimming with grommets...

...and other commonly asked questions.

Most children will have an occasional ear infection. Whilst most recover quickly, a number of children have recurrent ear infections and can develop ‘glue ear’. If this condition persists an option for treatment is grommets. But what are they and how can they help? We’ve answered your most frequently asked questions below.


A child getting their ears assessed

What are grommets?

A grommet is a small tube that is surgically placed into the eardrum to treat middle ear conditions. Grommets work by allowing air into the middle ear and drain excess fluid to the back of the nose and throat. Grommets are usually recommended if you’re child has had glue ear for at least 3 months or has experienced trouble hearing. They can also sometimes be recommended as a remedy for frequent ear infections.

What is glue ear?

Glue ear, or otitis media, is a common childhood condition that occurs when sticky glue-like fluid builds up in the middle ear. It can be caused by ear infections, severe colds, allergies and cigarette smoke – children of smokers are often more susceptible.

Glue ear dampens the vibrations of soundwaves in the eardrum and in doing so dulls hearing, can affect balance and may result in your child becoming irritable. Glue ear usually gets better on its own however if it doesn’t it can cause hearing problems.

When are grommets used and how are they inserted?

Grommets are usually recommended if you or your child has been suffering with glue ear for at least 3 months. Grommets can also be used to treat repeated ear infections.

They are inserted during a ‘myringotomy’, a minor surgery. It takes about 15 minutes and is performed under general anaesthetic.

Hearing is generally restored quickly after the surgery and the grommets themselves will usually fall out on their own within 6 to 12 months, leaving the eardrum unharmed.

Are there any complications to look out for?

Whilst it is normal for a small amount of oozing or bleeding from the ear in the first few days after surgery, you should be on alert if this continues for more than five days. This could be due to an ear infection or a tear in the eardrum. If there is a lot a pain or you notice prolonged discharge from the ear please contact your doctor.

Can you go swimming if you have grommets?

One of the most common complication of grommets are ear infections so it’s best to keep your ears as dry as possible. In the week following your surgery you should avoid swimming but after this you are safe to get back in the water as long as you take a few minor precautions. Whilst swimming at an ocean beach is fine, earplugs and a swimming cap should be used in swimming pools to lessen the risk of infection. It’s also recommended that you avoid diving completely whilst the grommets are in place and dry your ears thoroughly after swimming.

Are grommets just for children?

No – adults can also develop glue ear and may also require grommets as a course of treatment.

Need a little extra support?

Going to hospital?

If you’re an eligible member with hospital cover you can speak to our Health Concierge# to get support and guidance before and after your hospital stay. Call 1800 789 414 between 9am—5pm AEST (Mon-Fri). Just be sure to have your Medibank membership details ready.

Got a health question? 24/7 Medibank nurse phone service

Members with hospital cover can chat to experienced and qualified nurses over the phone to discuss any health questions or concerns and get professional advice on what to do next. Our nurses are available on 1800 644 325~ for round-the-clock health advice. 

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.

Help the way you want it

Contact us 

Call us on 134 190 to speak to a consultant. Alternatively, chat to us 24/7 online.

Self-service options

Login to MyMedibank or Download the MyMedibank App for self service options.

Find a specialist

Find a specialist or Member's choice hospital using our find a provider tool.

Things you need to know

# Health Concierge is available to all eligible Medibank members who hold hospital cover. Excludes Overseas Visitor Health Cover, Working Visa Health Cover and Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

~ 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). 

Have questions?

Our team of experts are ready to help!

Enter your postcode to find your nearest store to have a face-to-face chat!

Fill in the form below or get in touch by calling our dedicated line 1300 110 086.
We are open on Sundays.

In providing your telephone number, you consent to Medibank contacting you about health insurance.

We'll have someone call you soon to help with any questions you have.

contact us