Grommets are very tiny plastic tubes that are put into the eardrum to help to let air in and out of the middle ear. They will eventually come out on their own after six to 12 months of being in place.

Grommets are used at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) to treat deafness that is caused by fluid in the middle ear (glue ear) or recurrent ear infections. In most cases hearing returns to normal straight away

What happens

Before the operation it is important that you don’t eat or drink anything. You will have to discuss your health with the doctor and anaesthetist before the operation and discuss what will happen.

You will be asked to wear a hospital gown and then you will be wheeled to the operating suite.

You will have various monitoring equipment attached to you, so that the staff will be able to check that everything is alright during the operation.

You will be given a general anaesthetic (put to sleep) and will not be aware of the operation happening. The anaesthetist will stay with you throughout the operation to make sure that you have the right amount of anaesthetic and that your heart rate, blood pressure etc are all ok.

The surgeon will make a tiny hole in your eardrum (a myringotomy) and then the fluid that has gathered behind the eardrum will be sucked out. The grommet will then be put into the hole to make sure that it stays open.

The operation takes about half an hour and you may even be able to go home three or four hours after the operation.

Does it hurt?

It may hurt after the operation, though taking paracetamol or calpol should be enough to ease the pain.


  • Avoid getting water in your ear for 2 weeks after the operation (wear ear-plugs)
  • Avoid getting soapy water in your ears whilst the grommets are still in
  • You can swim with grommets in your ears
  • Discharge from the ears is common a few days after; it is nothing to worry about
  • Try to keep your ears dry until your first follow-up appointment. You can use ear plugs if necessary.

More information

Visit NHS Direct or speak to your doctor.

Last reviewed: December 2011

Compiled by:
Great Ormond Street Hospital