Glue ear is a condition in which thick, sticky fluid builds up behind the eardrum. Although it’s usually not serious, glue ear can hinder your child’s hearing and speech development because he may not be able to hear properly. Kids who get glue ear will most likely outgrow the tendency to get it.
What causes glue ear?
Glue ear is caused when thick, sticky fluid builds up in the ear behind the eardrum. Kids who get frequent ear infections are more susceptible to glue ear.
Is glue ear serious?
Glue ear is generally not serious and often clears up on its own. But, because the excess fluid can prevent kids from hearing properly, their hearing and speech development can be affected.
Can I prevent glue ear?
Glue ear can be prevented by treating ear infections promptly. Young children are more susceptible to glue ear as the inner workings of the ear are much smaller than adults and so any fluid build-up as the result of an ear infection can be slower to drain away, which can result in glue ear. For this reason, children tend to outgrow glue ear as their ears canals get bigger as they grow.
How do I know if my child has glue ear?
Kids who have glue ear often can’t hear well. Your child may have trouble sleeping or complain of pressure or pain in his ears, particularly when he lies down. In cases of severe glue ear, your child may have balance problems and may fall or trip a lot.
How do I treat glue ear?
Most cases of glue ear clear up on its own. But, if the condition is uncomfortable for your child, or if he gets frequent ear infections, he might need to have ear tube surgery in which small ventilation tubes, called grommets, are inserted through the eardrum to drain the fluid causing the problem.
Should I call the doctor?
You should make an appointment with your doctor whenever your child complains of pain and pressure in his ears or when he doesn’t seem able to hear properly. If your child seems to have trouble keeping his balance when he walks, he might have glue ear.
What you need to know about glue ear
- Glue ear occurss when sticky fluid builds up behind your child’s ear drum.
- Kids who get frequent ear infections may get glue ear.
- Glue ear often clears up on its own.
- Severe and persistent cases of glue ear may need surgery.
Find more relevant articles and information about glue ear
- Find out more about ear infections
- Learn more about middle ear infections
- Learn more about swimmers ear
- Read more about kids and speech development
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.
Last revised: Monday, 30 November 2009
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.