Also called an ear ventilation tube

Key points about grommets

  • Grommets are small plastic tubes with a hole in the centre (like a tiny cotton reel) that are inserted into the eardrum during a short operation.
  • They are often called 'air vents' as the hole in the grommet allows fresh air to pass into the middle ear.
  • This reduces the risk of fluid build-up behind the eardrum and gives ear infections a chance to clear up as pus can drain out through the hole in the grommet.
Young girl and audiologist looking at plastic model of the ear
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  1. Grommets are often used for children/tamariki who have glue ear(external link) or lots of ear infections.(external link) 
  2. Grommets are placed in the ear during a brief (10–15 minute) operation by a specialist surgeon done under general anaesthetic.  
  3. A small incision in the eardrum is made and a grommet is put in place to hold it open and allow drainage. 
  4. Usually, grommets will stay in place for 6–18 months and drop out by themselves. 
  5. Parents generally report an immediate improvement in their child's hearing, and sleeping, and general behaviour can also improve. 
  6. Some children need the procedure to be repeated if they are continuing to have ear problems.

To learn more about grommets, go to KidsHealth.(external link)(external link) 


Following insertion of grommets(external link) Capital and Coast DHB, NZ, 2018

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Credits: Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Healthify He Puna Waiora as part of a National Health Content Hub Collaborative.

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