Grommets are tubes to equalise the pressure between the middle ear and the outside world. They can become blocked from infection e.g. swimming without ear plugs or sinusitis.
A blocked grommet makes the ear feel dull and the hearing poor. If you fly with a blocked grommet it can be painful on aircraft descent.
A blocked grommet needs to be seen by a doctor as it may be blocked because it is extruding and needs replacement. There are many types of grommets but common varieties last either A: 6-12 months or B: 2-3 years.
Once a doctor has established your grommet is blocked he or she will write a script for Sofradex drops. You need to flood the ear canal twice a day, pumping the drops through the grommet using the skin tag (tragus) in front of the ear. This takes 1-2 mins per application. If you can taste the drops down the back of your throat you have succeeded in unblocking the grommet. This can take up to 3 weeks of therapy.
Grommets allow air to lift up the eardrum so it can vibrate. This allows for better hearing. For a child learning to speak good hearing can be crucial. Without good hearing speech development can be slow.
Grommets allow air into the middle ear but if wet e.g. by swimming, they can allow water with bacteria in as well. The best way to avoid problems is to avoid diving and to wear earplugs. Grommets connected to the middle ear will fill with water if submerged, just like a bottle fills with water if submerged.
Care is taken with the choice of plugs. Never use commercially available plugs which dry and crumble, leaving particles in the ear canal. Dr Dunlop’s staff will make custom-made plugs for you ($45 pair) or you can purchase Ear Putty ($5 pair) which is softer than Bluetack.
Remember, you can swim freestyle but do not jump in the pool or duck dive. Infection is manifest as sticky pus oozing from the ear canal without pain. Treat this quickly with Ciprofloxacin drops. The longer the infection is present, the longer it takes to clear. It will also clear faster if you contact Dr Dunlop for professional ear cleaning. Never syringe the infected ear with a grommet. Antibiotic tablets or syrup are rarely adequate treatment.