Grommet surgery

Learn about the surgical procedure, costs and recovery for grommet surgery.

What are grommets?1

Grommets are tiny tubes that can be inserted into the eardrums to treat ear infections or glue ear. The tubes let fluid drain out of the ears, which helps treat the infection.

Grommet surgery is usually performed on children (but sometimes on adults), in hospital under general anaesthetic (you’ll be asleep).

Grommet surgery is performed by an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon.

The medical term for grommet surgery is ‘myringotomy’.

A child with an ear infection - a sign that grommet surgery might be needed.

Signs your child might need grommets1

Grommets might be recommended if your child has:

  • Frequent ear infections.
  • Glue ear that lasts for a long time.
  • Hearing loss from ear infections or glue ear.

Alternatives to grommets2

Alternative treatments for frequent ear infections or glue ear include:

  • Antibiotics.
  • Waiting to see if the fluid clears itself. This can take up to three months.
  • Nasal sprays containing a steroid medicine under supervision.
A mother researching alternatives to grommet surgery for her child
A happy child who has recovered from grommet surgery

Grommet surgery recovery

Most patients leave hospital the same day as grommet surgery.

  • A small amount of oozing or bleeding from your child’s ear, or mild pain is normal. If there is a lot of pain, or the oozing or bleeding continues for more than 5 days, there may be an infection or tear.
  • Hearing is usually back to normal quickly. Have a hearing test soon after the operation to check if your child’s hearing has improved.1
  • Do not allow your child to swim for one week after the operation.
  • Keep ears dry using ear plugs or a swimming cap until the grommets fall out.1
  • A post-operative check-up is needed six to eight weeks after the operation.2

Getting grommet surgery at a public vs private hospital

It’s important to understand how getting your procedure in a public or private hospital differs.

Public system (Without health insurance)
Private system (With health insurance)

Will I avoid public hospital waiting lists?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my hospital?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my doctor or surgeon?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I have out-of-pocket costs?

  • No.
  • Yes.

What is the cost of grommet surgery?

In a public hospital

In a public hospital, grommet surgery is covered by Medicare for eligible residents.

Once you are discharged from hospital, you may still need to pay out-of-pocket for things like medicines and health services (like physiotherapy or occupational therapy).

In a private hospital, using health insurance

In a private hospital, private health insurance can cover some costs of grommet surgery.

You may have an out-of-pocket cost if you use private hospital cover when you get treatment. You can minimise some of these costs by choosing a hospital and specialist that have agreements with your health insurer.

If you have an excess on your cover, you will have to pay for that out of pocket.

What is hospital excess?

What is an out-of-pocket cost?

How to find health cover for grommet surgery

Minimise your costs

Ask your GP for an open referral

Your GP is the one who’ll most likely refer you to a specialist – but you may want the option to choose your own specialist.

Asking for an open referral can let you:

  • Choose your own specialist.
  • Find a specialist with good availability who can perform treatment at the hospital you prefer.
  • Find a specialist that you trust to perform your surgery.
  • Find a specialist with minimum out-of-pocket expenses for you.

Find a surgeon with minimum out-of-pocket costs

To find ENT surgeons who have an agreement with HBF, just search for ‘ENT surgeon’ in our find a provider tool.

  • Look for the “Full Cover” tick mark or “Access Gap Cover” tick mark.
  • These specialists will help minimise your out-of-pocket cost.

Find a Provider

If you’ve already started working with a specialist

If you’ve already got a specialist, ask them these questions:

  • Do you have a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF?
    If they don’t, you may need to consider if their fees work with your budget.
  • What hospital(s) do you operate in?
    You can then check if the hospital has a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF.

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