Glue ear? What is it, how do you get it, and more importantly how can you get rid of it? Here’s a quick guide from the experts at madeformums
What is glue ear?
Glue ear is a common childhood condition that occurs when the area behind the eardrum, known as the middle ear, fills with a sticky, glue-like fluid rather than air. This substance prevents the ear from working correctly, and affects the ability to hear. Glue ear is also known as otitis media with effusion (OME), or serious otitis media.
What causes it?
Doctors don’t know exactly what triggers glue ear, but it’s thought to be related to the eustachian tube, through which fluid normally drains away from the middle ear. When this stops functioning properly, fluid builds up in the middle ear, causing glue ear. Over time, this build-up of fluid prevents the eardrum from working like it should. Remember, this substance is behind the eardrum, so you won’t be able to see it or clean it out, so leave those cotton buds well alone!
What are the main symptoms?
The main symptom of glue ear is moderate hearing loss in one or both ears. To your child, this will be a similar sensation to the one you experience when you put your fingers in your ears. Keep an eye out for signs that may suggest your little one is having problems hearing. This can include struggling to keep up with conversations when there is a lot of background noise, and difficulty understanding people who are far away, or speak quietly. Some children with glue ear also suffer from mild ear pain or balance problems, although this isn’t very common.
What age group does it tend to affect most?
Glue ear usually affects children under the age of 7, and is most likely to be seen in those between the ages of 2 and 5. In fact, around one in five children around the age of 2 are affected by the condition.
Why should I be worried if my child has it?
Glue ear can occasionally delay language and speech development, particularly if hearing loss persists. Always see your GP if you’re worried that your child may be having problems with her hearing.
Is glue ear contagious?
No, glue ear is not contagious, although the cold virus which may have caused it can be. If your child has glue ear, your needn’t be concerned about infecting other children.
How is it treated?
In most cases, glue ear will clear up on its own within three months, so doesn’t need to be treated, just monitored by your doctor. However, if symptoms do persist, your GP may recommend treatment, especially if he’s concerned that the hearing loss may interfere with your child’s language and speech development. In these circumstances, grommets or t-tubes may be suggested. These are inserted during a minor operation, and will drain the glue-like fluid from the middle ear.
Will it have any lasting health effects?
It’s very unlikely that your child will suffer any long-lasting effects, so try not to worry. However, in very few cases there can be a minor delay in speech and language development, due to the moderate hearing problems caused by glue ear. This is usually only temporary and is more likely to occur in children who suffer from recurrent glue ear – when the condition returns even after treatment.
Here at The London ENT we can help to solve the ongoing problem of Glue Ear in children. There are many medical treatments which have been tried over the years, including antihistamine medication for allergy, steroid nasal sprays and drops, steroid medication by mouth and antibiotics. The vast majority of these have not been shown to be effective in the long term treatment of glue ear. One of the few non-surgical treatments which have been shown to be helpful in selected cases is a balloon inflation device such as the OtoventTM balloon. This is used by placing one end of the device into one of the nostrils and inflating the balloon. This sends a jet of air into the nose, which in turn opens up the Eustachian tube and allows better ventilation of the middle ear. Once air reaches the middle ear, this encourages displacement of the glue ear out of the middle ear. The procedure needs to be repeated often several times a day for many days or even weeks. It is suitable for both children and adults and many patients find this effective.
Another option is for your child to be fitted with a hearing aid. Although this does not cure the underlying glue ear, it does allow your child to hear normally without the need for any other treatments or surgery. This then allow sufficient time for the glue ear to disappear by itself.
Call us today on (0)7969 562855 to find out more.