Middle Ear

Glue Ear (Otitis Media with Effusion)

What is glue ear?

Glue ear is a condition where the middle ear (which normally contains air), fills up with thick fluid.
Glue ear is caused by a blockage of the Eustachian tubes that connect the middle ear to the nose and throat.  These tubes let air into the middle ear.  When the tubes are blocked, fluid fills the middle ear, the eardrum cannot vibrate properly and hearing is reduced.
Blockage of the Eustacian tubes happens when swelling is present; this may be caused by a blocked nose, a cold, enlarged adenoids, allergies or irritation of the nasal passages.
Most children will have at least one episode of glue ear which often it gets better on its own.  Complications occur when the fluid stays in the ear for a long time.

To reduce the frequency and length of the episodes of glue ear, children can be taught to

  • blow their noses regularly instead of sniffing
  • ‘pop’ their ears
  • breathe through their noses and not their mouths

How can I tell if my child has it?

In babies the signs might be:

  • not showing interest in sounds
  • crying, fretting, not sleeping
  • unusual or unsettled behaviour

In toddlers and young children the signs might be:

  • not listening
  • a delay in learning to talk
  • unclear speech
  • disruptive behaviour
  • earache or ear infection with each cold
  • delays in learning
  • snoring and breathing through the mouth

How can children with glue ear be helped by TOLBECS?

  • TOLBECS Ear Nurse Therapists are skilled in dealing with glue ear – they take time to give full explanations to both parents and children so the condition is fully understood
  • parents are able to see the magnified view themselves each visit so they can make their own judgements on progress/healing
  • children of all ages can be shown exactly how to blow their nose so the Eustacian tubes can unblock and the episode of glue ear resolves
  • we offer monthly visits (reduced fee) to monitor the child’s progress closely – parents are then able to make informed decisions on behalf of their child

What else can parents do?

  • make all carers aware that the child may not be hearing well
  • look at the child when you speak, say their name only, get their attention, then say your message
  • speak slowly and clearly, and slightly louder than normal
  • realise that changes in behaviour may be caused by poor hearing
  • if the child attends school or preschool, tell the teacher about the glue ear and hearing problems.  The teacher can help the child by seating them at the front of the room.