What are ear grommets and does my child need them?


2 minutes

15 August 2022

IBS Symptoms and Management

Most children have an ear infection before the age of three1. But if your child is experiencing frequent ear infections, grommets may help.

More than 80 percent of children experience at least one ear infection by the time they’re three.1

For children who have repeated ear infections, grommets may help. Grommets are put into the eardrums by a surgical procedure and prevent repeated ear infections and glue ear.

Dr Lara Shur, Director Clinical Services & Outcomes, COO & Co-founder at Earbus Foundation of WA, explains what grommets are, how they work, and when they may be needed.

In this article

What are grommets?

Grommets are tiny ventilation tubes that can be placed into the eardrum. They can be made from plastic or metal and are used to treat the effects of ongoing middle ear issues.3

Signs that your child may need grommets include:

  • Speech development. Your child may have pronunciation errors as they can’t hear speech sounds clearly. 3
  • Language issues. Your child may stop learning new words and have trouble with reading or spelling.3
  • Asking for repetition, saying "huh" or "what". Also asking for the TV to be turned up constantly. 2
  • Difficulty listening when you talk to them.4

How do grommets works

“Ongoing ear infections cause the fluid in the middle ear to build up which interferes with hearing,” explains Dr Lara Shur, Director Clinical Services & Outcomes, COO & Co-founder at Earbus Foundation of WA.

“The tiny bones in the middle ear space can’t move well because they’re now surrounded by fluid instead of air.”

“The eardrum has a tiny hole cut into it and the grommet is then inserted to keep the hole open,” says Dr Shur. “This allows fluid to drain from the middle ear space. The surgeon may also suction any of the fluid out of the middle ear space during this procedure.”

What does the procedure involve?

Most grommets are inserted as a day procedure. The procedure to insert grommets is called myringotomy3 and the surgery only takes a few minutes.

According to Dr Shur, your child will be asleep during this process and won’t feel any pain or discomfort.

“Most children wake up a little groggy,” says Dr Shur. “Children usually have something to eat and can then leave the hospital.”

You can talk through any medical questions you have with the doctor who will insert the grommets.

What happens after grommet insertion?

“Children who have grommets inserted should have a hearing assessment before grommets and another hearing assessment afterward,” advises Dr Shur. “This helps to measure the improvement in hearing levels and will pick up any other hearing-related issues.”

Many children experience an immediate improvement in their hearing following surgery.2 Parents may notice their children start to listen and speak better as their hearing improves.

It’s important to keep ears dry following grommet surgery as water from bathing or swimming can lead to ear infections.2

“Eventually the grommets will fall out by themselves and the hole in the eardrum should close,” says Dr Shur. “This can take anywhere between 3 to 18 months, depending on the size, shape and grommet material.”

How can you cover the cost of grommets?

You can choose to access the public or private health system if your child needs grommets. Most public hospitals have a wait list so it’s important to check how long this list is.

If you have hospital cover then your child can usually access surgery quite quickly, as long as they have served their waiting periods. When you take out your cover for the first time, you will have a waiting period to serve before your private health starts paying benefits for your treatment.

For parents

If you have kids, private health insurance can also provide extra choice and convenience for treatments that may be needed.

Popular hospital claims

At HBF, some of the most popular hospital claims for children and teenagers include:

  • Tonsils, adenoids and grommets
  • Ear,nose and throat
  • Dental surgery
  • Hospital psychiatric services
  • Bone, joint and muscle

Extras cover claims for things like dental, optical, physio and chiro are also common for children and teenagers.

If you’re an HBF member, you can check what you're covered for by logging on to myHBF or calling us on 133 423.

And remember, before getting a referral from your GP for an Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, check with the specialist’s rooms as to whether they charge out of pocket fees. Find a provider here. 

It’s important to know that not all levels of hospital and extras cover include the treatments and services described in this article. To find out more about levels of cover, check out HBF cover options.

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  1. 1Raising Children –Middle Ear Infections
  2. 2Sydney Children's Hospital Network –Grommets and Glue Ear
  3. 3HealthDirect –Grommets explained
  4. 4HealthDirect –Glue ear (Otitis media with effusion)


This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

*For the treatment of included services at Member Plus hospitals only.