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Key facts

  • Grommets are tiny ventilation tubes that are put inside the eardrum to prevent a build-up of fluid.
  • They are needed if someone has a lot of ear infections that have caused ‘glue ear’.
  • A person will need to go to a hospital to have grommets put in. They need minor surgery under general anaesthetic.
  • Grommets usually fall out by themselves after 6 to 12 months.

What are grommets?

Grommets are tiny tubes that are put inside the eardrums by a doctor. Grommets are needed if there is a lot of thick, sticky fluid in the middle ear. This is called ‘glue ear’.

Glue ear occurs when the liquid inside your ear becomes thick. This is often due to repeated ear infections. Glue ear can affect your: hearing, speech and learning. If you think you or your child might have glue ear, see your doctor.

Grommets can be made of plastic or metal. They let air go into the middle ear. They also help thick fluid to drain away down the back of the nose and throat. They don’t hurt.

Grommets are sometimes also called tympanostomy tubes or ventilation tubes.

When are grommets used?

Grommets might be needed if you have had glue ear for a long time. This might have caused you to have some hearing loss. Grommets may also be needed after you have had a lot of ear infections.

How are grommets inserted?

An operation is needed for the grommets to be put inside the ear. This operation is called ‘myringotomy’. It is done in hospital under general anaesthetic. You won’t feel anything. You should be able to go home the same day.

What should I expect after surgery?

Hearing is usually back to normal quickly after grommets have been put in the ear.

A small amount of oozing or bleeding may come from the ear. This can last a day or 2 after surgery. This is normal.

Mild pain after the surgery can happen. Medicine such as paracetamol can help the pain. Follow the instructions on the package.

A hearing test soon after the surgery will show if your hearing has got better. If your hearing is not back to normal, you may need further tests.

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How do I look after my child’s grommets?

If dirty water gets into the ear you can get ear infections. It is best to keep your ears dry until the grommets fall out and your eardrums heal. Ask your doctor how to protect your child’s ears from water while the grommets are in place.

Can grommets fall out?

Grommets usually fall out by themselves after 6 to 12 months. The time depends on the size, shape and material of the grommet. Regular ear checks can show when the grommets have fallen out.

The hole in the eardrum will usually heal quickly after the grommet falls out. In some children the fluid in the ear may come back. This can cause glue ear to happen again. Another operation to put in new grommets may be needed.

Contact your doctor if there is a lot of pain, or if the oozing or bleeding continues for more than 5 days. There could be an ear infection or a small tear in the eardrum.

Your child should:

  • not go swimming for one week after the surgery
  • use earplugs, swimming caps or ear wraps in the bath or shower, and when swimming
  • have a hearing test soon after the operation to check if their hearing has improved

Resources and support

You should talk to your health professional about the benefits and risks of getting a medical implant. Use the Therapeutic Goods Administration's guide on what to ask. The information is in English, Arabic, Croatian, Farsi, Greek, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese.

If you want to know more about grommets, talk to your doctor or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak to, 24 hours, 7 days a week.

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Last reviewed: August 2022

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