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Why do I need Grommets and Ventilation tubes?
Fluid in the middle ear is common after colds and will usually clear on its own. It may persist, particularly in people with poor eustachian tube function, and in children. This can cause hearing loss, a sense of fullness in the ears, and affect balance.
One option for treating this is to bypass the eustachian tube by making a small hole in the eardrum and inserting a small plastic collar (or grommet). The grommet will prevent the hole from healing immediately and restore normal hearing while allowing time for the underlying problem to resolve.
This intervention is most commonly performed for children, who are more prone to colds and eustachian tube dysfunction and will generally grow out of the problem in time.
Adults may also benefit from the insertion of grommets (which are temporary) or other more permanent ventilation tubes.
What is a Grommet or Ventilation tube?
The grommet itself is a small plastic collar which sits in the eardrum and holds a very small hole open, to allow air to move from one side of the eardrum to the other and equalise pressure. The grommet and the hole within it are small enough that they do not have a significant effect on the function of the eardrum, which will still carry sound normally. Allowing air through the grommet into the middle ear space will help fluid drain through the eustachian tube. The shape of a grommet means it is pushed out of the eardrum over time, other shaped ventilation tubes are available for use in situations where a permanent change is required.
Risks with Grommet or Ventilation tube insertion
A grommet designed to hold a small perforation of the eardrum open, when on balance that would be helpful. The presence of a perforation may make ear infections more frequent, and if the plastic of the grommet becomes infected it may need to be removed. The grommet is generally pushed out by the eardrum, between 6 months and 3 years after it was put in, and the eardrum heals as this happens. There is a small chance (about 5%) of a hole remaining in the eardrum after the grommet has come out, which may need to be repaired at a later date (link to perforation, link to myringoplasty).
To ask a question about Myringotomy and Grommet insertion at OneWelbeck or to book an appointment, contact our team today.
We are available from Monday to Friday: 8am – 8pm.