Glue ear is a very common but treatable childhood condition.

Consultant Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, Julian Hamann, explains.


What is glue ear?

Glue ear is a common childhood condition that occurs when fluid accumulates on the inside of the eardrum. It is most common in young children, and becomes gradually less common with age. Approximately four out five children will have glue ear at some stage, although in most cases it will settle of its own accord and not require further treatment.

How can I tell if my child has glue ear?

Glue ear can cause a number of symptoms that vary from child to child. The most common complaint is of poor hearing. This may be noticed by the child, although it is often parents and teachers who are the ones to notice.

In persistent cases, the poor hearing can give rise to developmental problems, in particular speech delay. Glue ear is probably the most common cause of this. Deterioration in behaviour and problems with attention are not uncommon. Occasionally children may become more clumsy and have trouble with their sense of balance.

How is glue ear diagnosed?

Glue ear is diagnosed by the clinical history and examination of the ear. Pressure tests can help confirm the diagnosis, and hearing tests are used to assess the level of hearing.

Treatment of glue ear

In most cases glue ear will resolve spontaneously. In children that have prolonged or recurrent episodes that are affecting hearing, further treatment is sometimes necessary. Treatment options include:

  • Autoinflation devices – In mild cases autoinflation devices, such as the “Otovent balloon”, can be used. These are balloons that are blown up using the nose and improve the ventilation of the middle ear by gently pushing air through the Eustachian (auditory) tube.
  • Grommets – In some situations the insertion of grommets can be helpful. Grommets are small plastic tubes than are placed through the ear drum. Grommets are inserted under a short general anaesthetic and the fluid in the middle ear is removed at the same time.
  • Adenoidectomy – in persistent cases, or where symptoms such as snoring are also present, the adenoids can be removed, as they play a role in glue ear formation.

If you are worried that your child is suffering from glue ear, ask your GP to refer you privately to The Wells Suite. You can use your medical insurance or simply pay for yourself.

All children treated privately at The Wells Suite are cared for on one of our specialist children’s wards at The Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury. Private patients receive consultant-led care supported by a friendly paediatric nursing team in clean, caring and comfortable surroundings.

To make an enquiry or an appointment, email us or call 01892 635888.