Glue Ear in Children : Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

How Glue Ear Can Affect Learning in Toddlers

As harmless as it may sound, glue ear can cause damage to your child’s hearing in the long term. Know what causes glue ear in toddlers, its signs, symptoms and remedies, and be prepared to prevent it or treat it in your toddler.

While parents put in their best efforts to keep infections in their children at bay, the process of growing up isn’t an illness-free one. Glue ear is one such problem that you should be aware of. It mostly affects the middle ear of toddlers where instead of air, a glue-like fluid fills.

A Breakdown of What Glue Ear in Toddlers Is

The ear is made up of three parts- the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The middle ear is the one responsible for transmitting vibrations to the inner ear for hearing. When a glue-like fluid fills the middle ear, the volume of hearing gets turned down. This condition is called glue ear.

1. Causes of Glue Ear

Glue ear essentially occurs when the Eustachian tube (the thin channel that connects the middle ear with the pharynx) is narrow, blocked or not working correctly. This causes an imbalance in the fluid and air in the middle ear, which in turn causes a vacuum to be created in the Eustachian tube. At this time, fluid may also seep into the middle ear from nearby cells. Sometimes common colds and illnesses that cause mucus build-up in the nose also cause this condition.

2. Symptoms of Glue Ear in Children

  • Reduced ability to hear. In case of babies, being less responsive to sounds
  • Problems with speech and social interaction
  • Having trouble balancing
  • Selective hearing

3. Glue Ear Diagnosis

Initial stages of the diagnosis include a visit to the GP who will identify the condition by the symptoms and wait for it to subside. Later, he may refer your child to an ENT specialist. The ENT specialist or audiologist will then perform a typanometry test to establish the diagnosis.

4. Glue Ear Treatment in 15 Months old Toddler

Using Otovent

This is a type of nasal balloon that a child blows up using his nose and it eases the pressure in the ear to aid the fluid to drain out of the middle ear.

Grommet Operation

This is a surgical procedure conducted on children who have a history of severe or prolonged glue ear. The procedure is relatively simple and done under general anesthesia.

Other treatments are symptomatic like the use of anti-histamines, decongestants and antibiotics and should be taken only under medical supervision.

5. Psychological Effects of Glue Ear

Some children get frustrated because of dulled hearing and isolate themselves from others as they feel left out from the proceedings around them. While glue ear in a 15-month-old baby may not affect his psyche in the short term, if the condition persists without being detected, it can lead to slow learning and development.

As simple as it may sound, glue ear may have long-lasting effects, and if there is even a flicker of a doubt in your mind about whether your child suffers from this condition or not, it is worthwhile to visit a doctor. Please note that a common cold can also have similar symptoms, in which case you can try out common cough and cold remedies like nasal aspirators and decongesting balms.

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