Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Grommets

5-minute read

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.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

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.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2022


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Middle ear infection and grommets - MyDr.com.au

A grommet is a tiny tube inserted into the eardrum to allow air to enter the middle ear. Grommets can treat glue ear and recurrent middle ear infections.

Read more on myDr website

Ears - Glue ear and grommets | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is glue ear? The lining of the middle ear keeps moist by making a watery liquid

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Ear problems - MyDr.com.au

Common ear problems include otitis media, glue ear, ear wax and swimmer's ear.

Read more on myDr website

Swimmer's ear (otitis externa) - MyDr.com.au

Swimmer's ear - an infection of the outer ear canal - occurs when the skin lining the ear canal is wet for long periods.

Read more on myDr website

Ear problems: self-care - MyDr.com.au

Common ear problems include otitis media and glue ear (which mostly affect children), ear wax build-up and swimmer's ear (otitis externa). Find out what products are available for ear problems.

Read more on myDr website

Middle ear infection: babies, kids & teens | Raising Children Network

Children with middle ear infections usually have pain or discomfort in the ear. If you think your child has a middle ear infection, it’s best to see a GP.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Ear problems in children | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Ear problems, like earaches and glue ear, are common in children

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Ear problems in children - Better Health Channel

Babies and young children are more likely to develop middle ear infections because they are still building up their immunity.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Ear infections - Better Health Channel

It is estimated that around four out of five children will experience a middle ear infection at least once.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Ear infections in babies and children

Otitis media and outer ear infections are common in babies and young children. There are ways to manage your child's discomfort and stop infections.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.