Grommets And The Benefits of Using Them
Does your child often end up with ear infections? Are you having frequent visits to the doctor because of their constant cries? Did your child have 3 or more significant ear infections in the last 6 months?
If so, maybe these are why you’re looking up what grommets are – because a doctor recommended these. So, what are grommets, and how can these help your child?
Let’s find out.
What Are Grommets?
These are tiny tubes placed inside the human eardrum through surgery to treat the accumulation of thick, sticky fluid that results from infections in the middle ear. This is also known as glue ear.
Grommets are made of metal or plastic. These are also known as tympanostomy tubes or ventilation tubes. These allow the air to properly get inside the middle ear and let the fluid drain back to the back of the nose and throat.
A doctor will recommend grommets if your child develops glue ear from the frequent ear infections. And it won’t clear up.
What is Glue Ear?
It’s a complication that might occur after a case of AOM (Acute Otitis Media). If otitis media is present for more than three months, the condition is called glue ear. Since the fluid is oftentimes sticky and thick – hence the name
This usually results from poor Eustachian tube functioning. Because this tube is responsible for letting the air adequately enter the middle ear from the back of the nose. If the tube starts malfunctioning, the fluid can’t leave the middle ear and becomes the ideal habitat for bacteria.
Long-time glue ear causes many of these symptoms in children.
- Frequent earaches
- Delay in speech development
- Learning difficulties at school
- Behavioural problems
When Are Grommets Used?
Grommets are recommended for glue ear that has been around for a few months and is causing major hearing loss. It’s also recommended if someone has had multiple ear infections.
How Do Grommets Work?
Grommets do what the functioning Eustachian tube was meant to do. It equalizes the pressure between the outer and middle ear. It maintains the normal ear pressure by allowing the ear into the middle ear. In case of an infection, the pus comes out through the grommet. This reduces the risk of fluid build-up in the middle ear.
Grommets are placed into the eardrum as a temporary solution – till your baby’s Eustachian tube develops enough to work normally. Most grommets stay in place for 6 to 18 months and fall out by themselves. The eardrum hole will naturally heal.
How Are Grommets Inserted?
These tiny tubes are inserted through a minor surgery called Myringotomy. It’s done under anesthetic – so your child won’t feel a thing. You’ll be home on the same day.
Benefits Of Using Grommets
Hearing: The hearing in patients with glue ear that are caused by conductive hearing loss (hearing loss because of the sound being unable to travel in the middle ear properly) is properly restored. The restoration of hearing results in normal speech development and reduces the child’s associated learning difficulties.
Behavior of children: The behavioral problems related to glue ear see improvement after a grommet surgery as these result from hearing difficulties.
Slowing or Stopping damage: As grommets allow air to pass through the middle ear and let the retracted middle eardrum return to its usual position, it’ll stop any future damages that might happen to the eardrum or bones.
Reduce the number of infections: Grommets reduce the frequency of recurrent otitis media in children. In some cases, many kids have no infections as long as the grommets are placed.
Instant Effect: The middle ear fluid will slowly drain out without grommets with antibiotics. But many observations, it has been seen that grommets have immediate effects in treating glue ear.
Lack Of Antibiotic Usage: There is another benefit of using grommets rather than the conventional antibiotic usage. Due to the increasing concern of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – as antibiotics have taken as long as 3 months during antibiotic treatments.
How Successful Is A Grommets Operation?
After the grommet surgery, the conducive hearing loss caused by the fluid will get better almost instantly. Parents have reported a overall improvement in the quality of life for their children after the grommet surgery. An outstanding improvement in their sleeping habits and behavior as well.
- About the Author
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Dr Ronald Chin is an Australian trained Otolaryngologist Head and Neck Surgeon.
After graduating as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Dr Chin undertook further specialized training in Head and Neck Cancer at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
He has published many research papers and is an active teacher and scholar.
As part of his sub-specialty training, Dr Chin has training in Laser, Da Vinci Robotic, Flex Robotic and complex surgical techniques.
In addition to specialized Head and Neck Cancer, Dr Chin also enjoys general adult and paediatric ENT Surgery and practices sinus, snoring/sleep and general paediatric ENT Surgical procedures.
Dr Ronald Chin
Conjoint Associate Professor
Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery
Western Sydney University