Glue ear is a condition where the middle ear fills up with a glue-like fluid.
Glue ear is caused by a blockage of the tiny ‘Eustachian tubes’. These tubes drain fluid down the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat and allow air into the middle ear.
When the tubes are blocked, a build up of glue-like liquid in the middle ear may occur. The eardrum can no longer vibrate properly and hearing is affected.
Blocked noses, colds, enlarged adenoids, allergies or irritation of nasal passages may cause blockage of the Eustachian tubes.
To allow air back into the middle ear, the fluid may have to be drawn out and ventilation tubes (called grommets) inserted into the eardrum.
Once the air returns to the middle ear, hearing usually returns to normal.
Hearing loss in young children can seriously affect their speech, their play, their development and their progress at school.
In babies the signs might be
In toddlers and young children the signs might be
If you think your child may have glue ear, see your doctor or child health nurse immediately.
If your child has glue ear the doctor will usually prescribe an antibiotic. Make sure you understand the correct dosage of antibiotic to give to your child and how long he or she should continue taking it.
Ask your doctor if you have any concerns.
Sometimes the doctor may refer the child to a specialist who may decide that the child needs grommets.
These are tubes inserted into the eardrum to allow air back into the middle ear. Grommets can stay in from several months to several years.
If your child has glue ear, here are six things you can do to help them
If he or she attends school or pre-school, let the teacher know of the condition. The teacher can support the child in a number of ways. These include
Encourage regular nose blowing in your child. This will help keep air passages clear.
Make your home smoke free. Tobacco smoke can irritate the nasal passages and may lead to glue ear.
Breastfeed your baby – this will reduce the risk of glue ear.
Mould and fungi can cause allergies. Keep your house as warm and dry as possible by heating it adequately during winter. Keep bathrooms and kitchens as dry as possible – extractor fans leading to the outside can help. Also, open windows whenever possible to ventilate rooms and if possible, insulate walls, attics etc.
Polythene plastic laid under the house is also useful in reducing damp.
Hold baby upright if bottle-feeding.
Ask your doctor or nurse to check your baby or toddler for glue ear at every visit, e.g. at visits for immunisation or well-child checks.
Always see your doctor if your child has painful ears or has greenish pus coming from the nose.
Ensure your child participates in your local hearing screening programmes for pre-school and school aged children.