Medical Q&As

Grommets - precautions?

What precautions should you take for a child with grommets?

A grommet is a tiny plastic tube that is inserted into the eardrum to allow air to enter the middle chamber of the ear. It is inserted to compensate for a poorly functioning Eustachian tube, which normally allows air to pass up from the back of the throat to the middle ear. Grommets cause no discomfort when they are in place and they are normally expelled spontaneously from the ear when the eardrum heals over, which occurs approximately six to nine months after insertion. Fluid may drain from the grommet after it has been inserted but if it persists or increases in volume or becomes smelly then the GP should be consulted. These signs may indicate that the child has developed an infection. It used to be recommended that children with grommets should not swim but this is no longer thought to be necessary. The hole in the grommet is extremely small and it is very unlikely that any water would enter the middle ear unless the child was diving into the water or deliberately putting its head under water. The modern consensus is that simple swimming and bathing can both be done safely without earplugs. It is also worth noting that air travel is safe for children with grommets. Finally, if you notice that your child’s hearing appears to have deteriorated again it is worth visiting the GP to ensure that the grommets have not been extruded prematurely.