There is limited evidence that swimming with grommets increases ear infections and most clinicians advise swimming with ventilation tubes is acceptable. Concerns may persist especially among parents. This paper evaluates the amount of different liquids (soapy water, sea water, chlorinated water and fresh water) it takes to penetrate various ventilation tubes (Shah grommet, titanium bobbins, mini-Shah grommet and a T-tube). The experiments were performed in an in vitro model consisting of the ventilation tube inserted in a latex membrane which was draped over a syringe barrel.
The study concludes that fresh water penetrates the least compared with the other liquids and that titanium bobbins were the most permeable ventilation tube.
The authors, quite rightly, stop short of correlating their results with direct clinical effect. However, the results are interesting and it will certainly make me think twice when using titanium bobbins in keen swimmers, even if they are easier to insert than Shah grommets!