Glue Ear-Hearing loss in Children
Know your middle ear
The middle ear is behind your eardrum. It contains three tiny bones (ossicles) that conduct sound and these transmit sound reaches your inner ear. Usually, your middle ear is filled with air but if you have inflammation, fluid and mucus can build up there. The Eustachian tube connects your middle ear with your throat.
What is Glue ear
Glue ear is a condition where the middle ear fills with glue-like fluid instead of air. It is common in young children and causes hearing loss. In susceptible children, thick mucous-like fluid may be secreted into the ear behind the ear drum leading to the condition which is commonly called glue ear. This fluid interferes with the passage of sound into the ear and the child becomes deaf.
Symptoms of glue ear
Unlike a middle ear infection (acute otitis media) where there is often earache, a high temperature and other signs of illness, with glue ear your child won’t necessarily complain of any symptoms. The main problem is hearing loss and a feeling of the ear being “blocked”. This can come on gradually and therefore your child may not notice.
As a result of this hearing impairment, your child may have problems paying attention or interacting with others, as well as with his or her speech and language. Your child may also appear clumsy and have trouble with balance.
Causes of glue ear
Children under six are most at risk of glue ear because their Eustachian tubes are shorter and more horizontal. This means that they get blocked more easily.
Over half of all children with glue ear get it as a result of a bout of inflammation of the middle ear (acute otitis media).
If your child has nasal allergies to pets or dust, or has hay fever, he or she may be more likely to develop glue ear. Inflammation caused by the allergic reaction may cause their Eustachian tube to swell and become blocked more easily. This may be the cause of glue ear if your child keeps getting it, even after he or she has had treatment.
Glue ear may also be caused by enlarged adenoids .Adenoids when enlarged or infected can block the Eustachian tube.
Diagnosis of glue ear
After examination of the ear with an Otoscope or microscope, the ENT surgeon, ask for an audiogram and tympanogram which will confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of glue ear
Antibiotics, antihistamines and decongestants are tried for a short period say 2 weeks, if no improvement then surgical intervention is needed.
Surgery may involve a procedure called a myringotomy in which a small cut is made in your child’s ear drum so that fluid can drain out. Ventilation tubes called grommets or tympanostomy tubes may also be inserted into your child’s ear. These are small plastic tubes which are placed in a cut made in your child’s eardrum. Grommets allow air to get in and out of the ear. They can be effective at improving hearing for up to two years but don’t appear to offer any benefit in the long term. Grommets usually fall out after about six months to a one year.
If your child has grommets, it’s fine to go swimming although diving and putting his or her head underwater (even in the bath) isn’t recommended.
It may help your child to have an operation to remove his or her adenoids. This is called an adenoidectomy. However, the operation alone doesn’t seem to improve hearing unless grommets are also inserted.