Glue ear is a common condition that affects children and adults alike. It is directly related to the middle ear.
Your ear has three main parts: the outer, middle and inner portions. The middle ear is a canal that is located behind the eardrum. Normally, that canal is filled with air and helps to equalise pressure on the eardrum itself. However, there are some conditions that cause a build-up of something other than air in the middle ear.
When a thick and whitish fluid builds up in the middle ear, this is referred to as glue ear since that fluid closely resembles white school glue. When this happens, hearing can be seriously affected and the patient may feel pressure or pain.
The main symptoms of glue ear include:
- Loss of hearing as if the volume has been turned down on the world.
- Hearing that seems blocked or as if gauze is stuffed in the ear.
- Selective hearing in children.
- Problems with speech and communication.
- Loss of balance.
Generally, if children are suffering from glue ear, then they will not react to sounds or they may not be able to communicate properly.
The Eustachian tube has a direct link to the cause of glue ear. This tube works between the inner and middle ear to help maintain air pressure. Normally, air will enter the middle ear through this tube, and it will close to avoid the seepage of fluids. However, at times, the tube may not close properly. When a child or an adult has an infection in the ear, the sinuses, or the throat, then mucus will develop and could get into the inner ear.
Because mucus is thick, it won’t drain through the Eustachian tube. Instead, it will build up and cause glue ear. Generally, the problem is not caused by an ear infection but instead by congestion in the nose or throat.
Glue ear can be treated with tubes. These grommet like devices are placed in the eardrum to allow the sticky substance to drain out of the ear. Once the fluid has drained, the tubes will fall out and the eardrum will heal up. Generally, children do not continue to have problems with glue ear after this procedure. There are other treatments that can be used in cases of glue ear. If you think your child has the condition, you need to make an appointment with an ENT Specialist and then determine the best course of treatment.