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  You are at: Procedure info > Ear, nose, throat > Grommets

Grommets and Glue ear
















What is glue ear?

Glue ear is a common condition where fluid builds up in the middle ear, just behind the eardrum. This is due to the eustachian tube not working properly - the tube Grommets & glue earconnects the middle ear to the back of the nose, and usually allows air to reach the middle ear and equilise pressure. When this does not occur, fluid builds up and can cause earache, infections, ear discharge or even deafness. In children, this hearing loss can lead to learning impairment. Glue ear may get better on its own, or can last months or even years.

If the condition lasts for more than three months, or is causing hearing problems or recurrent infections, then grommets may be used to help. Occasionally, the adenoids may also be removed at the same time as grommet insertion.


What is a grommet?

A grommet is a tiny plastic or metal tube that is placed in the eardrum to help with the symptoms of glue ear. It allows air to enter the middle ear, preventing fluid build-up. Whilst the grommet helps with the symptoms, it will not cure glue ear. The operation usually takes about 20 minutes to perform.

Plastic grommets usually fall out after 9-12 months, and after 2 years for metal ones. The glue ear may now return, and further grommets might be needed. Eventually, though, the glue ear should resolve spontaneously and grommets will no longer be needed.


What are the risks of grommet insertion?

  • Ear discharge - leakage of clear fluid mixed with blood may happen for a day or two after the procedure. Leakage that lasts longer may need antibiotics to help settle this down. Rarely, the grommet may need to be removed.

  • Failure of grommet - occasionally the grommet may become blocked with blood or wax, and fluid can then build up even with the grommet still in place.



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Any procedure involving incision can result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.

The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer






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