Ear Infection and Ear Grommets Treatment

The ear consists of three parts: the external ear, middle ear and inner ear. The middle ear contains three little bones through which the sound travels and is usually filled with air. The ear drum (tympanic membrane) separates the ear canal (external ear) from the middle ear. The middle ear is connected to the area behind the nose (nasopharynx) by the eustachian tube. The inner ear contains the cochlea (for hearing) and the semi circular canals (for balance).  

Middle ear infections are common especially in children and are usually painful. Middle ear infection, often referred to as acute otitis media, results in inflammation of the middle ear and ear drum. During a middle ear infection the air-filled space of the middle ear is replaced with fluid. 

Some common middle ear infection symptoms include: otalgia (ear pain), ear discharge, fever, restlessness and decreased hearing. An ear infection is treated with antibiotics and pain medicine. 

Usually, the fluid in the middle air resolves draining out naturally, however, sometimes the fluid remains. This condition is called glue ear. Glue ear is especially common among children up to the age of six years as their middle ear and eustachian tubes are still developing during this time. Symptoms include a blocked sensation in the ear, hearing loss and sometimes speech and school problems including poor pronunciation, slow development of speech, poor progress with reading and inattention in class. Grommet surgery may be recommended to your child to help with this condition. 

Ear canal infections (otitis externa) are common especially in summer and are best treated with cleaning the ear canal under a microscope (suction micro aural toilette),  antibiotic / steroid ear drops and keeping the ear 100% dry.  

Inner ear infections are usually viral and present with either sudden hearing loss or vertigo. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss presents with a sudden hearing loss in one ear. Prednisone should be started as soon as possible (preferably with 5 days) to increase the chance of full recovery of hearing.  

What are Ear Grommets and Grommet surgery?

Ear grommets are tiny plastic or metal tubes that are inserted into the eardrums to treat conditions that affect the middle ear, such as recurrent middle ear infections and glue ear. Grommets are also called ventilation tubes as they work by equalising the pressure across the eardrum thereby helping to drain the fluid in the middle ear. Grommet surgery is usually recommended when your child has had glue ear for at least 3 months and has associated problems with hearing. Ear grommets are temporary and only last about 12 months before falling out on their own as the eardrum grows. They essentially “buy time” for the child until their ear fully develops, leaving them less likely to have an ear infection as their own eustachian tubes work better. 

Grommet surgery is performed under general anaesthesia where the child will be fast asleep. It is a very short procedure, and a light anaesthetic is used. Recovery is very quick and usually the child is back to normal later the same day or early the following day. It is not a painful operation and often only one or two doses of paracetamol (Panadol) are required post-surgery. It is also recommended to keep the ears dry for one week following surgery. Usually, Ciloxan drops are prescribed for the ears for 5-7 days following surgery. 

In adults, grommet surgery can usually be performed under local anaesthesia in the clinic.  

What are the risks of Grommet Surgery?

Although the risks are minor, every form of surgery carries some type of risk. Dr Francis Hall takes the utmost care when performing paediatric surgery and will be able to advise on next steps if there are any problems following surgery. 

Sometimes when the grommet falls out, the eardrum does not heal completely and about 2% of patients may have a small permanent hole (perforation) in the eardrum as a result. If this happens, the perforation of the eardrum can usually be fixed with a second operation called a myringoplasty. Dr. Hall will be able to advise if this is necessary in follow-up appointments.  

Additionally, several weeks or months after a grommet has been inserted, discharge may occur from the ear canal. If this occurs, we advise suctioning the discharge from the ear canal and antibiotic ear drops. Please contact Dr. Hall immediately if your child experiences this post-surgery. 

It should be noted that both a tympanic membrane perforation and a discharging ear can also occur even if grommet surgery is not done.  

Dr. Hall and Grommet surgery:

Dr Francis Hall has performed many paediatric procedures and grommet surgeries in the past. He is more than happy to address any concerns that you may have regarding surgery for your child and advise anyrecommendations forEar Infection treatment. 

Please contact our clinic on (09) 281 2963 or book an appointment online for more information on ear infection treatment and grommet surgery.