Children's Ear Problems
Ear Problems

ENT issues that children may suffer.

Glue Ear

Glue ear is the presence of fluid behind the ear drum. It is a very common condition in children under the age of 6.

  • The eustachian tube connects our middle ear to the nose and equalises pressure in the ears.
  • This tube does not function adequately in younger children, leading to a negative ear pressure that draws in fluid (glue).
  • Large adenoids at the back of the nose can also hinder the function of this tube.

  • Glue ear causes hearing loss in children (the severity of this is similar to putting your fingers in your ears).
  • This can lead to speech and language delay, poor listening skills and affect educational progress.

  • Examination of your child.
  • Hearing tests and pressure tests to check for fluid behind the ear drum.

  • Most children will clear the glue on their own over a period of 3-6 months.
  • Children are usually monitored during this period with repeat hearing tests.
  • In this surveillance period the Otoventâ device can be used to improve your child’s eustachian tube function. This is a balloon that your child blows up with their nose twice a day. The video demonstrates this.
  • In children with persistent glue and hearing loss and speech delay the options include a hearing aid or surgery (insertion of grommets).
  • In children with evidence of large adenoids (nasal blockage/ frequent upper respiratory infections), an adenoidectomy can also be beneficial.

  • Grommets are small plastic tubes that are inserted into your child’s ear drum.
  • Grommets improve the function of the middle ear.
  • Grommets remain in the ear for 12 months after which they fall out on their own.
glue ear
Childs Glue Ear

  • The procedure removes glue, improves middle ear function and allows your child to hear normally.
  • Children’s hearing usually improves soon after the procedure.
  • Grommets also reduce the number and severity of ear infections.

Grommets are a quick and straightforward day case procedure involving a general anaesthetic. Recovery is usually painless and children can return to school within a few days.

Overall, grommets are a very safe and short procedure. The risks are as follows:

  • Infection (usually precipitated by water entering the ears).
  • Persistent leaking from the ears (otorrhea) can occur in children with recurrent ear infections. This can be treated with short course of antibiotic ear drops.
  • Occasionally the grommet falls out earlier than expected, however usually this causes no issues.
  • Rarely grommets do not come out on their own and can cause recurrent infections in the long term and may need to be removed.
  • A hole in the ear drum that does not heal (1% risk)- this can lead to infections and may require repair when the child is older
  • Scarring of the ear drum (tympanosclerosis)- this does not usually cause any problems

  • Hearing aids
  • A medium term course of a low dose antibiotic (for ear infections)
  • Watch and wait approach to see if the glue clears

  • Recovery is quick and children can return to school soon after the procedure.
  • We suggest a short course of ear drops to prevent the grommets becoming blocked in the first few days.

  • I usually suggest that children avoid swimming for the first 2 weeks following grommet insertion to allow the ear drum to heal.
  • In this period it is also useful to minimise hair washing and use ear plugs or cotton balls soaked with Vaseline in the ear during baths.
  • After this period, swimming usually causes no problems.
  • Use of a moulded ear plug with a swimming cap can be considered if there is concern regarding ear infections.
  • Diving should be avoided as it is associated with a higher pressure and thus may lead to water being forced in to the middle ear and subsequent infections with grommets.
  • If your child has any pain, ear discharge or fevers then we suggest seeing your GP or emergency doctor as antibiotic drops may be required.
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