What is glue ear?

Glue ear is a common condition where fluid collects in your middle ear behind your eardrum (see figure 1). It can cause deafness and repeated earache or infections, resulting in a discharge from your ear.

What are the benefits of surgery?

A grommet (small plastic or metal tube) allows air to enter your middle ear, preventing fluid build-up.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

The condition almost always gets better but it is not always possible to say when this will happen.

Surgery is recommended if the glue ear continues for longer than three months and is causing problems with poor hearing or repeated ear infections.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic but a local anaesthetic can be used. The operation usually takes about 20 minutes.

Your surgeon will make a small hole in your eardrum and remove the fluid by suction (myringotomy). They will place a plastic or metal grommet in the hole.

What complications can happen?

1 General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots

2 Specific complications

  • Fluid leaking from your ear
  • Ear discharge
  • Small hole left in your eardrum after the grommet falls out
  • Repeated build-up of fluid in your middle ear

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

Other than swimming, you should be able to return to normal activities after one to two days.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

The grommet will fall out of your ear by itself, after 6 to 18 months depending on the material and design of the grommet.


Glue ear is a common condition that usually gets better without any surgery. Surgery is recommended when the condition lasts longer than three months and the hearing loss is causing problems.


Author: Miss Ruth Capper MD FRCS (ORL-HNS)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

News & Events

December 13, 2018
Patients choose to self pay for private hospital treatment to avoid NHS queues and waiting lists
October 11, 2018
Mr Marcus Davis covers all your need to know questions when considering Breast Reduction Surgery