Glue ear is the accumulation of fluid (often thick and sticky), in the middle ear. It causes a temporary hearing loss by preventing the eardrum from vibrating. It may cause discomfort and ear infections. It is a very common condition affecting about a half of all children, usually only briefly in one ear at a time.
Glue ear is a common childhood condition in which the middle ear becomes filled with fluid. The medical term for glue ear is otitis media with effusion (OME). It’s estimated that one in five children around the age of two will be affected by glue ear at any given time, and about 8 in every 10 children will have had glue ear at least once by the time they are 10 years old.The main symptom of glue ear is some hearing loss in one or both ears. This usually feels similar to what you experience when you put your fingers in your ears.
Signs that your child may be having problems hearing include:
- struggling to keep up with conversations
- becoming aggravated because they are trying harder to hear
- regularly turning up the volume on the TV
What is normally in the middle ear?
The middle ear is the region behind the eardrum. It is normally full of air and contains three little bones (ossicles ) in a lever system. The eardrum collects sound waves and the ossicles transmit them through the middle ear into the inner ear. The nerve of hearing runs from the inner ear to the brain.
What is the eustachian tube?
The Eustachian tube runs from the back of the nose to the middle ear. It lets air up into the middle ear, and drains mucus that forms in the middle ear.
What causes Glue Ear?
If the Eustachian tube does not work properly, the fluid from the middle ear cannot drain properly so it accumulates. With time, the fluid thickens and becomes “gluey”.
What causes the eustachian tube not to work properly?
What does Glue Ear do to my child?
Your child will usually have a mild to moderate hearing loss. This may cause problems with learning to talk, learning to read, responding to conversation at home or school, and even playing with friends (especially with background noise).Occasionally your child may have discomfort in the ears (like the blocked feeling adults may get in aeroplanes or driving over mountains), and sometimes recurrent ear infections.Some children have balance and clumsiness problems, sleeping problems (from night-time discomfort) and even behavioural problems (from not hearing parents’ or teachers’ instructions, and frustration).
What is done to treat it?
Most cases of recent onset Glue Ear will settle within six weeks. Antibiotics, nasal decongestants and antihistamines may speed up recovery. Sometimes, a minor operation is required.
When is surgery necessary?
If Glue Ear persists for more than six weeks, it has much less chance of settling in the following months, leaving the child with a prolonged hearing loss and the associated educational handicap. It is cured by the insertion of ventilating tubes. Occasionally adenoids, tonsils or nasal obstruction will be treated at the same operation.
Does Glue Ear come back?
About 80% of children have no further problems, but 20% will develop the Glue Ear again and need to have tubes re-inserted.This is not a failure of the treatment but shows that the Eustachian Tube is still not working properly.