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Our ears help us lead our everyday lives, function and communicate with other people. Being diagnosed with glue ear, which may affect our hearing can be distressing. The London Clinic has world-renowend specialists, to provide surgery and support in a comfortable environment. 

Glue ear is a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum. This can make it hard to hear. Having grommets fitted is a minor operation that is an effective treatment for glue ear by helping to drain fluid away and keep the eardrum open. Grommets are tiny ventilation tubes that allow air to flow in the middle ear and prevent fluid from collecting.

 At The London Clinic, the procedure to fit grommets is performed by one of our surgeons and ENT specialists, who specialise in the treatment of conditions affecting your ear, nose or throat.


A tube called the Eustachian tube connects the middle ear with the back of your nose. The narrow tube allows air to reach the middle ear, so that pressure behind the eardrum stays the same as the pressure in the air surrounding the head. Sometimes the Eustachian tube can no longer drain fluid away, causing fluid build-up known as glue ear.


The risk of getting glue ear is linked to your age, your genetic background and your lifestyle. Glue ear is common in children, but fairly frequent in adults. The exact cause of glue ear is unclear, but many cases follow a cold, an acute ear infection or radiotherapy to the neck. Glue ear is usually temporary, but some people can have glue ear for several months or years. 


If non-surgical methods have not improved the ear within three months, your surgeon may recommend grommets. The grommet allows air to enter the middle ear, preventing fluid build-up and hearing loss.


Surgery for grommets is usually done under general anaesthetic, so you won’t be conscious during the operation. Typically, you won’t be allowed to eat or drink for a few hours before the operation.

The operation usually takes around 15 to 30 minutes in our dedicated ear, nose and throat unit. This means you will have them fitted and be able to leave The London Clinic the same day. Your surgeon will make a small incision into your eardrum, before inserting a small tube to remove the collected fluid. A grommet is then placed into one or both ears, if both are affected. Your surgeon may apply steroid eardrops into the ear to prevent swelling and infection.

Your ENT surgeon will advise how to prepare and what will happen when the grommets are fitted.

Treatment side effects and recovery

There are usually mild side effects with the operation, and can include slight earache and bloodstained discharge from your ear. Your doctor may prescribe painkillers and medication to reduce any symptoms and support your recovery.

The London Clinic will advise how to care for your ears and ask you to come back, so that they can check that the operation was successful.

You should stay at home for a day or two after the operation, so that you can avoid coming into contact with germs that may cause coughs or colds. Your doctor will usually advise you to avoid immersing your head in water for at least two weeks after the procedure. After that period, you’ll usually be recommended to wear earplugs, if you have a bath or go swimming.

Once your grommets have been fitted, they will usually fall out of your ear after around six to twelve months. The hole in the eardrum that has been made for the grommet heals naturally very quickly, once the grommet has fallen out. When this happens, the glue ear may return. Occasionally, you may need more than one set of grommets to be fitted if you have recurring bouts of glue ear.

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