Glue ear is a condition in which fluid accumulates behind the ear drum. The build up of fluid in the middle ear is due to a problem with the Eustachian tube. It occurs more frequently in childhood but can affect adults as well, especially after a common cold. It is the most common cause of deafness in children and most children will experience it at some point in time.
Most will only have it for a few weeks and will improve with no treatment. A few children will suffer with it for months or years at a time and may experience problems hearing at school. They may also have speech delay issues, mispronounce certain sounds and exhibit behavioral problems. Treatment depends on various factors such as the child’s age, level of hearing, problems with speech, language and behavior. Many children will find this clears up in time.
Therefore consultants generally advocate a “watch and wait” policy and will review/examine your child at least two appointments, 3 months apart, before deciding whether or not to treat. If treatment is recommended then this is either grommets (ventilation tubes) or a hearing aid until the glue ear has resolved by itself.
Most parents opt to have grommets which requires a short anaesthetic. A small hole is made in the ear drum, the glue is suctioned from the middle ear and a tiny plastic tube is placed through the hole to keep it open. This ventilates the middle ear and prevents more glue from accumulating.
The tube usually falls out by itself usually approximately 12 months later.
Rarely the grommet gets infected or a hole is left in the ear drum once the grommet falls out.