About glue ear
Glue ear occurs when the middle ear fills with a sticky, glue-like fluid. The glue blocks the ears which dampens the vibrations made by sound waves as they travel through the eardrum and ossicles. Glue ear may not be obvious and may go undetected – the main and most obvious symptom is loss of hearing.
Glue ear is a common ear problem in children often seen in children under 4 years of age.
Glue ear symptoms
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Many children with glue ear do not have any symptoms.
- Some children have problems hearing, they may want to have things repeated, talk loudly or have the television up loud.
- Parents or teachers may notice hearing problems in children, especially in noisy situations such as classrooms.
- Your child may have some pressure or pain in the ear from time to time.
- In smaller children, hearing difficulties may affect their speech development.
- Some children seem to be more irritable and have problems sleeping when they have fluid in the middle ear.
- Children with glue ear seem to have problems with balance.
Treatment may include grommet surgery requires making a small opening in the eardrum and inserting a tiny circular tube (ear grommet or middle ear ventilation tube) into the opening in order to allow the middle ear to ventilate and the fluid to drain.
You should take your child to visit a paediatrician (children’s doctor) or ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist if:
- Your child is having frequent ear infections.
- Your child has persistent fluid in the middle ear that affects their hearing.
At this visit the doctor will discuss the following treatment options for your child.
- If your child is not bothered by the fluid and the hearing is normal, often no treatment is needed.
- A 2-3 week course of antibiotics is sometimes prescribed to treat infection. This may help the fluid clear.
- If the fluid persists and is affecting your child’s hearing, then a procedure may be needed. Small ventilation tubes (called “grommets”) are put into your child’s ear during the operation. These tubes help fluid drain and ventilate the middle ear.
Your child’s hearing must be also be tested properly by a hearing specialist called an audiologist.
Click here to find out more about glue ear and ear grommets in children.