Postoperative Care: Grommets/Ear Tubes

Grommets, ear tubes, or middle ear ventilation tubes (MEVT) are little plastic tubes inserted through the ear drums to prevent recurrent middle ear infections or to relieve fluid (“glue”) in the ear and aerate the middle ear.

Grommet insertion is done as a day procedure. Some blood and blood-stained discharge from the ear is expected in the first couple of days. Usually patients will be discharged with ear drops: 3 drops, 3 times a day for 3 days. Keep the bottle in the medicine cupboard at room temperature as they last for a couple of months. Paracetamol is usually sufficient for postoperative pain relief.

A hearing test is usually organised at 4-6 weeks after procedure. Then 6-monthly check ups will be done either through the GP or ENT practice until the grommet is eventually extruded. A repeat hearing test is sometimes performed a few months after grommet extrusion if the patient still has ongoing problems. Most grommets are extruded by 8-12 months, or earlier if repeated infections. If a grommet is still retained 3 years after insertion, it will require removal by an ENT surgeon.

While the grommet is in it is preferable that water precautions is adhered to. This is often hard to do in kids. Water in the bath or shower is usually fine. A little bit of water is not a major issue. However if swimming or water sports was considered, investing in a good set of earplugs and a swimmer’s headband is worthwhile as the grommet will be in the ears for up to a year or more. Headbands and ear plugs can be bought at most major pharmacies, or check out Little Grommets and Doc’s Proplugs (I receive no benefits from recommending them).

If there are any significant concerns, it is recommended that the patient be seen by a doctor either at the GP practice, the emergency department or the ENT Practice. It is often quite difficult to give a safe advice over the phone without directly examining the patient.