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More about your treatment

You have been told by your doctor that you need further treatment to find out more about your condition. Please take a few minutes to read through this information which answers the most usual questions patients ask. “Glue ear” may be caused by congestion at the back of the nose leading to obstruction of the hearing tube (Eustachian tube), which normally allows air to pass into the middle ear. This may be due to a blockage in the nose resulting in sticky fluid accumulating in the middle ear, instead of air, so that the hearing becomes muffled. The fluid is often thick and sticky, hence the term “glue ear”.


Myringotomy: This is an operation, usually done under a light general anaesthetic. An adult may opt for local anaesthetic. It involves a tiny cut in the ear drum, through which the surgeon can suck any fluid out of the middle ear where it prevents the little bones moving properly.

Grommets are tiny plastic objects which have a hole through their middle, very similar in shape to a cotton reel. These can be placed in the ear drum allowing the air to pass into the middle ear. As the middle ear becomes dry and free from glue, the ear drum heals up behind the grommet and pushes it out into the outer ear. It is hoped that while the grommet is working, the Eustachian tube will recover its normal function, but if more fluid accumulates later (up to 30%), further grommets, some designed to stay for a longer time, may have to be inserted.

The important thing is to maintain normal hearing until the skull has grown sufficiently for the Eustachian tube to function normally (children only). The length of time the grommets stay in the ear drum varies between patients and the type used. A standard grommet will usually remain in place for 6 to 18 months.

Grommets and swimming

Whether a patient should swim or not with grommets in the ear drums is controversial. There is a theoretical risk of infected or irritating chlorinated water passing through the little hole in the grommet into the middle ear, leading to inflammation. However, if sensible precautions are taken, no problems should arise. If your child wishes to swim before the grommets come out, the following precautions should be taken.

  1. Cotton wool smeared on the inside with Vaseline should be packed into the outer part of the ear. Proprietary plugs may also be used if they fit properly.
  2. A tight fitting bathing hat should be worn.
  3. There should be no diving or swimming under water.
  4. If any earache or discharge occurs from the ears, swimming should be stopped immediately and antibiotic ear drops, from your doctor, should be instilled into the ears. Any earache or discharge from the ear should be reported to your doctor immediately so that antibiotic ear drops may be prescribed.

After care

Take care not to let water into the ear until the grommets come out and the ear drums have healed, otherwise infection may be introduced.

Length of stay

The child/adult will usually be allowed home the same day of the operation (day case), unless other procedures have been performed. Please wash your hair the day before surgery.

For queries please contact: Ambulatory Care – (01908) 995 470