Also called an ear ventilation tube

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.

Key points about grommets:

  1. Grommets are often used for children/tamariki who have glue ear or lots of ear infections. 
  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.

Image credit: 123rf

Glue ear – an animation

A very detailed animation describing glue ear. Click the image below and scroll to the bottom of the page to view the animation.

NHS Choices, UK, 2021


Grommets KidsHealth, NZ

Clinician guidelines 

Otitis media – a common childhood illness BPAC, NZ, 2012
Otitis media with effusion in under 12s – surgery NICE, UK

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team & KidsHealth NZ. Last reviewed: 30 Nov 2021