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 Founation 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.1
Signs that your child may need grommets2 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.
- Asking for repetition, saying "huh" or "what". Also asking for the TV to be turned up constantly. 3
- Not following simple instructions or responding when called.
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 ENT may also suction any of the fluid out of the middle ear space during this procedure.”
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. Parents may notice their children start to listen and speak better as their hearing improves.3
It’s important to keep ears dry following grommet surgery as water from bathing or swimming can lead to ear infections.3
“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. Currently, the public wait time for grommets is between 60 – 530 days, this is the median number of days you will wait not the average and depends on which state you live in.
Another important note on wait times is that they start after you see a specialist. There’s a separate wait list before you see a specialist called the ‘wait-to-wait’, but that’s another conversation.
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.
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:1
- 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.1
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 they’re an HBF Fully Covered provider – this way if your child requires surgery, you’ll have no or reduced out-of-pocket costs. 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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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.