Is your child stuck with glue ear?

Fast facts – glue ear

  • Around 4 in every 5 children will have at least one mild episode of glue ear in early childhood. It’s the most common cause of hearing problems in the very young.
  • Children are more at risk because their immune system – and ear anatomy – are less developed than those of an adult.
  • If one or both of a child’s parents smoke it increases the risk of the child developing glue ear.

Problems with your child’s hearing can be easy to miss, but left unchecked, hearing issues can have a serious impact on their language development, confidence, social skills and performance at school. One very common problem that it’s important to look out for – particularly in the winter months – is glue ear.

What is glue ear?

Glue ear (also known as otitis media with effusion) is probably the most common cause of hearing problems for young children. It involves the build-up of thick, sticky fluid in the middle ear space in one or both ears, which stops the eardrum from vibrating properly which can result in a hearing loss.

Glue ear is particularly common in winter or after a cold/flu and is often linked to ear infections.

Glue ear often clears up without treatment, when the congestion from a cold has gone. But it’s important to keep a close eye on it as, if it doesn’t clear, it will need specialist intervention.

How can you tell if your child has glue ear?

  • Saying ‘what?’, ‘pardon?’ or ‘huh?’ a lot, or not always responding when you call them.
  • Complaining of having sore ears
  • Unusually clumsy
  • Appearing inattentive or prone to daydreaming
  • Speaking loudly, unclear speech or mispronounced words
  • Watching the TV, or listening to music, at high volumes
  • Unsettled at school; pre-schoolers may seem to be behind in learning to talk
  • Tired, grumpy, frustrated or over-active

What should you do if you think your child has glue ear?

Contact your child’s GP or call The Hearing Clinic directly to book an appointment. We can carry out a comprehensive hearing test to see whether the condition is affecting your child’s hearing, and how much. We will produce a report which is usually sent to your child’s GP. We can also refer you to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist who can manage the problem medically.

How do you treat glue ear?

Otovent Glue Ear Treatment is a drug-free, non-invasive way to reduce the symptoms of glue ear. It’s a surgical balloon which your child blows up through the nose. The act of blowing it up opens the ear’s blocked tubes, enabling fluid to drain from the middle ear naturally. Your child will need to use the Otovent device two or three times a day until the fluid has drained.

Otovent is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and you can buy it direct from the manufacturer. We also stock the Otovent device at The Hearing Clinic for £x.xx each.

Glue ear should clear up within three months. Even if you think all is well after this time, we recommend having your child’s hearing checked for peace of mind. If the glue ear hasn’t cleared up, they may need to have surgery to have grommets fitted and/or they may benefit from using temporary hearing aids. Grommets will help to heal the glue ear while the hearing aids will ensure that your child’s speech and education doesn’t suffer in the meantime.

How you can help your child to hear better

Glue ear can take some time to disappear, and if you opt for an operation to have grommets fitted, there may be some time to wait for surgery. In the meantime, there are various ways that you can help your child.

  • Inform family and teachers of the problem; work with them to find ways to help your child to be included in social and family activities, and to ensure their learning stays on track.
  • When speaking to your child:
    • reduce background noise (turn down music or the TV)
    • attract their attention before you start speaking and face them all the time you’re speaking to them
    • speak clearly (don’t shout or exaggerate your mouth movements).

What to do next

Contact us to book your child’s hearing test.

Download a glue ear factsheet [link to existing pdf]

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