Grommets are plastic tubes that sit in the eardrum to allow air into the middle ear. The air normally gets into the middle ear through the eustachian tube which connects the back of the nose to the middle ear. Kids who need grommets have immature eustachian tubes so there is not enough air behind the drum. This leads to

  • Recurrent ear infections and/or
  • Glue ear

The recurrent ear infections are due to the negative pressure behind the drum allowing bacteria to pass easily from the nose to the middle ear. Often these kids get an ear infection several days after developing an upper respiratory tract infection. The negative pressure can also be uncomfortable leading to sleeping problems for a younger child.

Glue ear is due to the poor drainage of middle ear fluid down the immature eustachian tube. These kids have hearing problems because the ear drum cannot vibrate freely when it has fluid behind it. Their speech may be slow to develop because they cannot hear as well as other kids.

Hearing difficulties mean these children cannot interact as freely as the other kids. This can lead to frustration and poor behaviour.

Grommets are inserted in the ears using a microscope under a general anaesthetic. This is day surgery. Kids may return to school the following day. Ear drops are used daily for one week. Ear plugs are worn when swimming or bathing in order to keep the grommets free from water that could possibly lead to infection.