Posted on: 13 March 2015
If your child is finding it difficult to hear--perhaps you're struggling to get their attention or they need the television turned up higher--they may have glue ear. Glue ear is a common cause of hearing loss in children, particularly in boys. When a build-up of fluid or thick mucus gets trapped in the middle ear cavity, this blocks the ear drum and small bones, which cause sound to move properly.
The most common causes of glue ear are the following:
- A cold
- An infection, usually from repeat ear infections.
Both of these things allow bacteria and mucus to develop inside the ear. Because of your child's age and their stage in development, the Eustachian tube in the middle of the ear is not yet capable of draining the fluid, and so it gathers, allowing the bacteria to multiply. This can result in further infections, especially if your child is teething or suffers from a constant runny nose, as these will affect the Eustachian tube and allow bacteria inside.
If you child presents any of these symptoms, visit your doctor.
- A feeling of pressure or pain in the ear.
- Frequently playing with the ears as if trying to dislodge the feeling of fullness.
- Often has a runny nose.
- Irritability and trouble sleeping.
- If your child is very young, their speech may be affected.
- If your child is older, their school work begins to suffer because they can't hear the teacher.
- You may have trouble getting your child's attention, and they are easily distracted
- They may ask for you to repeat what you've said often and may want the volume on the television turned up.
If you are concerned by any of your child's complaints or behaviours, speak to your doctor to check for glue ear.
Your doctor will refer you to an ear specialist, known as an audiologist, to test your child's hearing, confirm glue ear and prescribe treatment.
Treatment can include the following:
- Doing nothing. If your child has no symptoms and the glue ear isn't bothering them, the audiologist will likely recommend leaving it to see if the infection clears up on its own, which happens often.
- A course of antibiotics. This can help the body fight the infection, flush out the bacteria and clear the ear blockage.
- Surgery. If the blockage is severe and refuses to move, your audiologist may recommend a quick operation. Small ventilation tubes are inserted into your child's ear, which allow the fluid to drain.
If you are concerned at all about your child's hearing, speak to your doctor or a specialist. Most forms of hearing loss are treatable, especially if they are caught early.Share