Glue ear: Glue ear or middle ear effusion is a condition where sterile mucous gets stuck behind the ear drum. The part of the ear behind the ear drum (middle ear) is an air filled chamber. For a continuous supply of the air, it is connected to the nose via a tube called eustachian tube. There are a lots of moving parts in the middle ear (ear drum and tiny bones which carry the sounds to the inner ear) and the body does not like dry air. For this, middle ear cavity is lined with mucous. Extra mucous usually drains out of the chamber via eustachian tube. However, eustachian tube can get blocked due to various reasons. Cold and congestion are perhaps the major reason. This happens more frequently in children as they get episodes of congestion and also due to the fact that there eustachian tube is still developing to take the adult shape in later years.
When the eustachian tube is blocked, the mucous collects in the middle ear chamber, which affects the movement of ear drum. Hence, the sound transmission is affected. So, Glue ear is essentially a drainage issue for the body.
Glue ear is a common childhood problem that 90% of us suffer once before the age of 4. Children above 6 years old have 85% less chances of having Glue ear. By some account, Glue ear is the most common issue why parents take children to their GP’s, throughout the world. Although some of us go on to have this in the adulthood but adult Glue ear is rare and often pathological, needing medical attention.
Once the eustachian tube congestion goes away- Glue ear disappears. This happens spontaneously in most children. However, a small percentage of children either have a persistent Glue ear or more frequent episodes than others, affecting their hearing, speech/language, academics and behaviour. If the hearing issues diagnosed in subsequent audiological tests (audiometry, tympanometry and sometime otoacoustic emissions) show a significant deterioration along with the accompanying symptoms (speech, behaviour or learning issues)- it is perhaps a good reason to actively seek help for Glue ear. One of the treatment options is something called ‘grommet’. Grommet is a tiny little tube (you can perhaps fit 3-4 of those on your little finger nail), that’s fixed in the ear drum by an ENT surgeon after sucking the Glue out of the ear with a special suction device. It is a very successful operation with reports of 98% success rates. Please speak to your audiologist, GP or ENT surgeon if you are worried about your child’s hearing.
Your audiologist will perhaps monitor your child’s hearing for a few time, before discharging them from the service.
Our paediatric assessment service:
Glue ear information
NICE guidance on Glue ear (profesisonal resource)
Information on speech and language development
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