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.
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.
What to expect after surgey
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.
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.
Read more on how to prepare your child for hospital and care for them afterwards here.