A grommet is a tube in the ear drum to allow equalisation of pressure from the middle ear. Infants and school aged children commonly suffer from ear infections. Many ear infections will resolve on their own, particularly if they are viral in nature. If an infection is bacterial in nature, often antibiotic treatment will resolve the infection. Recurrent ear infections can lead to fluid building up in the middle ear space. Problems can then arise such as hearing loss, pain, poor behaviour, speech and language difficulties, poor balance and poor performance at school. A review by an ENT surgeon will require an otoscopy of both ears to assess the anatomy of the ear. It may also be necessary for a swab to be taken for pathology to ascertain the microbiology causing the infection.
Ear tubes or ventilation tubes are commonly referred to as grommets. Ear tubes/grommets may be recommended for repeated middle ear infection, known as acute otitis media or for hearing loss caused by persistent middle ear fluid, known as otitis media with effusion. A myringotomy is performed which involves a small incision in the ear drum or tympanic membrane and an ear tube is placed within the hole to permit air to reach the middle ear space. Grommet insertion is one of the most commonly performed surgeries for children requiring a general anaesthetic. The average age for ear tube insertion is 1-3 years of age – American Academy of Otolaryngologists and Head and Neck Surgeons.