What are Grommets?

These are tiny plastic flanged tubes, which are inserted through a small nick in the eardrum to allow air into the middle ear until the Eustachian Tube begins to function normally. They come in various different sizes, which last in the eardrum for different duration's depending on the size of the flange inserted into the middle ear. The most common ventilation tubes last between 6 - 9 months and 12 - 15 months. This may vary considerably in individual children. Tube selection is sometimes dependent on personal preference of the surgeon, influenced by the season at time of insertion and the desired duration of action.

Grommets eliminate middle ear fluid by allowing air in to the middle ear from the outside - they are not "drains". Allowing air in from the outside through the grommet enables mucus and fluid to drain in the normal way down the Eustachian Tube.
There is usually improvement in hearing and reduction in frequency of acute otitis media episodes. Parents often report improvement in balance and walking ability, and an improvement in well-being and happiness of the child. Many times, there is an improvement in sleeping at night.

The grommets are inserted while under a short general anaesthetic (asleep). The surgery is performed by a Specialist Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, (Otolaryngologist, Head and Neck Surgeon), and usually takes 10 - 15 minutes. When the child has recovered and wide-awake, they are allowed to go home. Follow up consists of a visit to your Family Doctor, and on occasion back to the hospital.

Mr Colin Brown - ENT Surgeon, Starship Children's Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand)